[The WHO] and the Food and Agriculture Organization have come out with a statement that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk in humans”. And this only a year after another UN agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, stated what looks like the exact opposite, that it could “probably” be a cause of cancer in humans. Later on last year, the European Food Safety Authority said that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard”.
[...] the difference is that the IARC is looking at the question from a “Is there any possible way, under any conditions at all, that glyphosate could be a carcinogen?”, while the FAO and WHO are giving an answer to the questions “Is glyphosate actually causing cancer in people?”
[...] “Risk”, technically speaking, refers to your chances of being harmed under real-world conditions, while “hazard” refers to the potential for harm.
Under real-world conditions, eating a normal amount of bacon raise your risk of colorectal cancer by an amount too small to consider. But it does appear to be raising it by a reproducible, measurable amount, and therefore bacon (and other processed meats) are in the IARC’s category 1.
[...] It’s important to note that some hypothetical substance that reproducibly, in human studies, gives anyone cancer every single time they touch it would also be in category 1, the same as a hypothetical substance that reproducibly, in human studies, raises a person’s risk of cancer by one millionth of a per cent. Same category. These categories are not arranged by relative risk – they’re arranged by how good the evidence is. Glyphosate is in category 2A, which means that there is evidence from animal studies, but limited/insufficient evidence from humans as of yet.
[...] So yes, by the standards of the available evidence, glyphosate is in the same cancer hazard category as working the night shift, or working as a hairdresser.
TFA is interesting and worth a read, especially for its use of a shark analogy explaining the difference between risk and hazard.
Additional Wired link: http://www.wired.com/2016/05/monsantos-roundup-herbicide-cause-cancer-not-controversy-explained/ [wired.com]