(Adds 90-day public consultation period, exposure limits proposal)
By Jake Spring
BRASILIA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Analysts at Brazilian health agency Anvisa have determined that the weedkiller glyphosate does not cause cancer while recommending exposure limits as international pressure to reduce use of the chemical grows.
Companies such as Bayer AG and its unit Monsanto, which produces glyphosate-based weedkillers, have faced legal challenges over allegations that glyphosate causes cancer. A new study published this month also links high exposure to cancer.
“There is no scientific evidence that glyphosate causes health damage beyond shown in tests with laboratory animals,” Anvisa Director Alessandra Soares said.
Brazil bans agrochemicals found to cause cancer and the findings, if approved, would allow sales of glyphosate, the most widely sold herbicide in the country, to continue with some restrictions.
Anvisa’s risk analysis team presented its conclusions on Tuesday to the agency’s directors, who voted to advance them to a 90-day public consultation before a final decision.
Monsanto sells the weedkiller under its Roundup brand and historically has been the largest seller of glyphosate-based products in Brazil. Bayer declined to reveal its market share.
Monsanto faces $78 million in damages after a jury in California last year found that its products caused a man’s cancer and the firm failed to warn customers of the dangers of its use.
A similar trial was set to begin this week, also in California.
The companies deny the allegations and have said that decades of use and hundreds of studies have found their glyphosate-based weed-killers to be non-cancerous. France and Germany are seeking to curtail the use of the chemical.
In a study published this month in the journal Mutation Research, U.S. academics linked high exposure to glyphosate-based products to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
While Anvisa analysts found the weedkiller non-cancerous, it said that health risks remain for those exposed to the chemical when it is being applied to crops and suggested new limits on exposure.
It proposed maximum daily ingestion limits of 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight for the general population and 0.1 milligrams for rural workers using the chemical. Previously there were only chronic exposure limits and no daily limits.
The agency also recommended banning products sold with concentrations over 1 percent of the glyphosate active ingredient, and adoption of safer application practices to limit exposure. (Reporting by Jake Spring; additional reporting by Ana Mano Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Susan Thomas)