Science in Society Archive

Roundup Listed Carcinogen by Danish Authority

WHO report links glyphosate specifically to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a disease on the increase in Denmark; eminent professor of environmental medicine calls on people to ban glyphosate from homes, but falls shy of a total ban in the country Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is now considered a carcinogen by Denmark’s Working Environment Authority (WEA) [1]. This comes in the wake of the recent World Health Organization (WHO) reclassification of glyphosate as probable carcinogen (see [2] Glyphosate “Probably Carcinogenic to Human” Latest WHO Assessment, SiS 66).

The WHO group of 17 experts links glyphosate specifically to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a disease affecting approximately 1 040 Danes each year, and the rate is growing for reasons unknown [1]. The WHO report raises the concern of Philippe Grandjean, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark.

Eminent professor of environmental medicine speaks out

“We know that glyphosate causes cancer in other mammals, but it has not been demonstrated in humans. That is because the effects are not investigated thoroughly enough in people yet. But when we see that other mammals get cancer from glyphosate, we must assume that people who are exposed to the substance can also develop cancer,” Grandjean says.

Glyphosate is used in many Danish gardens to control weeds, and Grandjean encourages people to rid themselves of the agent. “Gardeners should remove Roundup as hazardous waste. Pesticides have often proved more dangerous than we thought, and I do not think they belong in our homes,” he says.

The major use of Roundup however, is in agriculture. Glyphosate is by far the most widely used pesticide in Denmark.

In 2013, 1 389 tonnes of glyphosate was used on Danish soil;  it is, for example, permitted to spray grains intended for animal feed up to 10 days before harvest.

“It is so common a substance, and our use of it is so extensive that this WHO report must be taken seriously,” says Philippe Grandjean.

“Big News” in Denmark

“The work inspectors in Denmark listed Roundup as carcinogenic, meaning that they will demand that due care is taken when used, and they will recommend a change to other less toxic chemicals,” comments Danish pig farmer Ib Borup Pedersen [3], who documented the dramatic change in the health and productivity of his animals as well as the profitability of his farm when he switched to non-GM feed uncontaminated by glyphosate 4 years ago [4] (“Changing from GMO to Non-GMO Natural Soy”, Experiences from Denmark, SiS 64). 

“This is Big News in Denmark, where the debate has been quiet for too long,” Pedersen continues [3], “Now that it has been in the news and it is election-day 18 June, this will fill the minds of the politicians, and I cannot imagine that glyphosate will be accepted for use as a desiccant this harvest.”

“Phillippe Grandjean is one of the world’s leading professors on toxicity especially on brain damage due to chemicals.” Pedersen adds. “His appearance is of great importance; nobody in Denmark from the industry has clout enough to go against him, as he is both professor in Denmark and USA (at Harvard School of Public Health), and is widely recognized for his work.”

“We want a ban on glyphosate”

“When the WHO expert panel declares that Round Up is probably carcinogenic to humans, we should of course stop the massive use of Round Up in Denmark and the import of feed that has been treated with large amounts of Round Up,” writes Maria Gjerding, environmental rapporteur for Unity in a press release [1].

However, a total ban is not necessarily the solution, says Grandjean

“We face a dilemma. For if we ban Roundup, what is the alternative? - I understand the idea of ​​a ban, but other pesticides may be worse,” he says.

Grandjean is not unaware that total bans on glyphosate are already in place or announced in El Salvador, Bermuda, and the latest, Sri Lanka, and proposed in other countries; while a number of partial bans have also been imposed (see [5] Fallout from WHO Classification of Glyphosate as Probable Carcinogen, SiS 67).

Furthermore, over 70 % of the world’s food is currently produced by 1.5 billion small family famers, at least 75 % of them according to agroecological principles without chemical input [6]; and sustainable, non-GM organic agriculture is widely recognized as the solution to food security in times of climate change (see for example [7, 8] Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free, ISIS/TWN special report;  Agriculture beyond the Green Revolution: Shaping the Future We Want, SiS 64). Denmark should take this opportunity to shift comprehensively to non-GM, organic, health-enhancing, sustainable and climate-friendly agriculture.   

Article first published 01/06/15


  1. “Roundup kommer på Arbejdstilsynets kræftliste”, Peter Moller, Nyhederne V2 (Original in Danish) 28 May 2015,
  2. Ho MW and Swanson N. “Glyphosate probably carcinogenic”, latest WHO assessment. Science in Society 64
  3. Ib Borup Pedersen e-mail to Mae-Wan Ho, 29 May 2015.
  4. Pedersen IB. “Changing from GMO to non-GMO natural soy”, experiences from Denmark. Science in Society 64, 8-12, 2014.
  5. Sirinathsinghi E. Fallout from WHO classification of glyphosate as probable carcinogen. Science in Society 67 (to appear) 2015.
  6. Altieri MA and Nicholls CI. Agroecology scaling up for food sovereignty and resiliency. Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, May 2012,
  7. Ho MW, Burcher S, Lim LC et al. Food Futures Now, Organic, Sustainable, Fossil Fuel Free, ISIS/TWN, London/Penang, 2008,
  8. Herren H. Agriculture beyond the green revolution: shaping the future we want. Science in Society 64, 44-47, 2014.

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Melvyn Firmager Comment left 1st June 2015 21:09:19
Hi, If glyphosate is implicated in the development of cancer in vertebrates, yet it is being suggested that we shouldn't ban it all together, then that is showing the state of the human condition. This indicating that we, many of us humans, care little for our fellow beings. That is a deep sickness in it's self. The excuse for not implementing a complete ban is that other chemicals are (potentially) worse. Well yes, that is likely to be the case. So the solution is obvious. We need to be phasing out 'chemicals' completely and quickly, at the same time introducing organic farming/growing methods. Looking at the old ways, and the new, to a better and safer world for the future. We are heading for a disaster of monumental proportions if we don't stop now using all this ..... If we are destroying wild and domestic life, then we are next. And sooner than most people think. regards Melvyn

Ken Conrad Comment left 2nd June 2015 01:01:50
Chemical companies such as Monsanto have had a huge influenced over research at leading agricultural universities throughout North America. They were eminently successful at promoting their toxic technologies and were relentless, calculated and unscrupulous in the way they went about it. Students from these universities were well indoctrinated. Following graduation many were eventually hired on as agriculture representatives for the various government ministries of agriculture and food and travelled far and wide at the taxpayers expense disseminating, for lack of a better word, this payola-based research. When glyphosate (Roundup) was licensed and introduced it was touted by agricultural officials and the industry as being non-toxic, biodegradable and not harmful. My gut instinct at that time was to reject the above claim on the basis that if this chemical had the ability to exhibit such a wide spectrum of toxicity, how could it but not be harmful to humans and the environment. I chose not to use it, and I have managed quite well without herbicides or pesticides of any kind.

Todd Millions Comment left 2nd June 2015 04:04:13
As the drive for a ban -accelerates,Great caution is required on reporposeing and re-branding efforts. The dessicate residues are bad enough (compelling to farmers,especially larger ones-who have tickets bought already for 'Arizona ',with long stops in Las Vegas,both ways.). As in 3rd world countries like canaduh,ddt can be reclassified as an-inert ingredient;Just so can the glyposate residue on the feed(10 days-what a joke!)-be 'rebranded' an a 'growth hormone substitute'. The large feed-lot weenies have being lining this up for some time. Throughout the meat/poultry industry.Given how quickly its proven to not breakdown,feed-lot fish farms will also have this- benefit , as its flushed into the nearest convenient (as in deniable) watercourse.