"Senator Elena Cattaneo denies the judgment of the International Agency for Cancer Research - IARC that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic for the human species. The senator disagrees because 'two components (not better specified, editor's note) of the IARC team on glyphosate' would have failed to reveal their conflicts of interest and would have concealed some scientific data in their possession.

The Senator flies over the fact that IARC is the structure of the World Health Organization (WHO) responsible for assessing carcinogenic risks. The IARC program for assessing carcinogenic risks on the basis of scientific evidence is familiar to us and some of us have had the opportunity to participate directly. We therefore know - appreciating - the criteria used by the IARC to control both the independence and moral integrity of the members of the working groups as well as the rigor in the collection and critical analysis of the studies taken into consideration. The criteria, repeatedly updated, submitted to the scrutiny of the entire scientific community, are accessible (www.iarc.fr).

Concerning the concealment of scientific data on glyphosate, we do not find that the very serious episodes denounced by Senator Cattaneo have taken place: therefore we urge the senator to produce a documentation, if any, or a denial. These arguments were widely used by Monsanto, whose interests on the chemical are large, to discredit the work of the IARC.

The prof. Cattaneo enjoys scientific prestige (even in fields other than environmental carcinogenesis) and plays an important public function: the words you have expressed may have a destabilizing effect on the reader of Repubblica. With the category 'probably carcinogenic to the human species', for decades, IARC has designated agents adequately tested in laboratory animals for which adequate observations on the human species are lacking, which are not always easy to perform. As such, these agents are considered worthy of prevention interventions (so much so that the European regulations for safety in the workplace do not distinguish between 'carcinogenic' agents and 'probably carcinogenic agents for the human species').

On the attempts of the multinationals to distort the process of knowledge construction on the harmful properties of glyphosate there is an upsetting dossier produced by a newspaper of the caliber of Le Monde, which has had wide circulation also in Italy.

Given his dual role as parliamentarian and scientist, by prof. Cattaneo would have expected greater clarity on a problem of relevance to public health even before agriculture.

Finally, the words of the senator seem inappropriate to us, as they seem to question the risks of cancer linked to the consumption of sausages and alcoholic beverages. These are risks based on solid evidence (further strengthened after the judgment of the IARC working groups), which have led Italian and international scientific associations (for example the prestigious World Cancer Research Fund) to recommend that such consumption be contained."

  Annibale Biggeri (University of Florence)
  Franco Merletti (University of Turin)
  Benedetto Terracini (University of Turin)
  Paul Vineis (Imperial College, London)