The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, although on Thursday it proposed new limits on the amount of herbicide residues considered non-hazardous for human consumption.
Its conclusion could pave the way for the 28 members of the European Union to renew approval of glyphosate, the use of which Monsanto introduced in the 1970s and is used in its best-selling Roundup product, as well as many other herbicides around the world.
Environmental groups called for a ban on the herbicide after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, said in March that it is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
EFSA assured that its analysis was thorough and took into account the IARC findings. The environmental group Greenpeace criticized the report.
"It has been an exhaustive process (...) it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic," said José Tarazona, director of the pesticides unit of EFSA, based in Parma, Italy.
The EFSA scientists, who worked with experts from EU states, said their study looked at glyphosate only, while the IARC looked at groups of related chemicals. They added that the toxic effects could be linked to reactions to other components.
However, for the first time they proposed a limit to the maximum daily dose considered safe, of 0.5 milligrams per kilo of body mass.
That means that a 80-pound person can eat foods that contain a residue of 40 milligrams of glyphosate per day for the rest of their life. Monsanto said that amount is equivalent to eating 400 kilos of fruits or vegetables per day.