Global Women’s Health Federation FIGO Calls for Phasing Out of Glyphosate Herbicides

Posted on Jul 31 2019 - 9:26pm by Sustainable Pulse

FIGO, The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, has called Wednesday for a global phase out of the world’s most used herbicide, glyphosate, to protect women and children’s health.

FIGO, known as the global voice for women’s health, are in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a consultative status with the United Nations (UN). They have now become one of the first global health bodies to call for the removal of glyphosate from global usage.

A Statement by the FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics):  Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health Committee:

Over the past fifteen years, an expanding body of evidence has implicated the role of environmental exposures on health.

Whether scientists are reviewing increased rates of cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, pregnancy outcomes, or birth defects, there is evidence to support the effect of chemical exposures on health. Chemicals in pregnant women can cross the placenta and, as with methyl mercury, can accumulate in the fetus and have long lasting sequelae.

The following statement regarding glyphosate reflects a review of literature and a Precautionary Principle.  This principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.  In some legal systems, such as the Law in the European Union, the application of the precautionary principle has been made a statutory requirement in some areas of law.


Glyphosate was patented in 1961 and is the most widely used herbicide worldwide.   Six billion kilograms have been released globally in the last decade.  It is applied in conjunction with other chemicals to enhance effectiveness.  It has been used in crop control, control of marijuana and coca crops, and in genetically-engineered herbicide applications.   Glyphosate exposure can be direct because of application or indirect because of persistence in the food chain.  It is found in food products and in water supplies because of runoff from agricultural use.

Global research is underway to understand the potential impact on human health.  In 1985, glyphosate was categorized as a Class C carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Class C states there is suggestive evidence of causing cancer.  In 1991 the EPA changed the classification to E, evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans.

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In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it (2A) as probably carcinogenic to humans.  IARC has a scientific review process that focuses on independence, access to data, and transparency with participation by IARC scientific committee and observation but not participation of many groups (industry and non-industry).   IARC looked at animal research, DNA damage, and cancer.

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority released a report that concluded glyphosate was unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and they proposed a new safety measure that will tighten the control of glyphosate residues in food. The most recent meta-analysis published in 2019, states that there is a compelling link between non-Hodgkins lymphoma and glyphosate.

This same year, in recognition of the need for a global federation to address the threat of toxic environmental chemicals to human reproductive and developmental health on the global stage, FIGO adopted its opinion, Reproductive Health Impacts of Exposure to Toxic Environmental Chemicals   When this opinion on environmental exposures was released at our FIGO World Congress of 2015, we also established a global Working Group on the topic of Reproductive and Developmental Environmental Health, (RDEH). This working group set a global agenda on the impact of toxic exposures on women’s health. Due to the importance of this issue, and the recognised impact on the health and well-being of women and newborn children worldwide, in 2018 the working group was recognised for the impact it has had and was designated a formal FIGO Committee.

Glyphosate will be up for renewal in 2022 in the European Union; and a panel of member states will review assessment.  France has committed to stopping glyphosate usage, and in finding alternative environmentally favorable resources.  In 2019, HEAL the Health and Environment Alliance cited new studies that documented transgenerational effects of glyphosate and stated that if a pesticide shows harm that occurs generations down the line, it offers an opportunity for the European Commission to take precautionary measures to protect health.  1.3 million citizens signed an Initiative to ban glyphosate

FIGO, who for over sixty-five years has collaborated with the world’s top health bodies including working in official relations with the World Health Organization, and consultative status with the UN, including the United Nations Population Fund and a broad range of other partners including March of Dimes, points out the inherent problem of the production of many types of chemicals, that they are released into the environment and with current policy it is up to the public, the scientists in the public interest and physicians to prove HARM before chemicals are removed from the market.  Contrast this approach with the pharmaceutical industry, where they must prove safety before use by the public.

Our priorities should be in establishing safety, now and across generations, prior to exposure to chemical products.

FIGO invokes a Precautionary Principle as noted by the Wingspread Conference: 

 “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”   


Global health should be our guiding light.  We recommend that glyphosate exposure to populations should end with a full global phase out.

FIGO’s overall goals are:

  • to improve the health and wellbeing of women and newborn children worldwide;
  • to raise the status of women and enable their active participation to achieve their reproductive and sexual rights with access to efficient education and services throughout their life cycle;
  • and to upgrade the practice of obstetrics and gynecology through education, training and research to maintain a high standard of professionalism and ethical adherence

FIGO’s considerable global achievements include a staging system for gynecologic tumours (used in hospitals worldwide); ethical guidelines; harmonisation of scientific terminology; numerous General Assembly resolutions; and various major maternal and newborn health initiatives funded by major global donor bodies.

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9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Dr Sabine July 31, 2019 at 22:24 - Reply

    Thank you I see a huge problem with women’s hormone health in my practice.

  2. Annie MacDonald July 31, 2019 at 23:09 - Reply

    It is urgent that we stop exposing vulnerable people in our communities to this chemical.
    People have raised the life threatening reactions they experienced through exposure but come second to those complaining about weeds-frightening lack of social protection

  3. Trish Goulter August 1, 2019 at 03:00 - Reply

    Agreed it is small companies like our family business in Nelson NZ who have been trying to bring about change by developing a safe and effective weed control in our back yard over 5yrs ago. However the bigger companies don’t want to know about us as we pose a threat to their glyphosate based products. We as a company continue to create awareness around the use of toxic sprays – no matter how small we are our voice is beginning to be heard!

  4. Dr Julie K Bjornson August 1, 2019 at 05:56 - Reply

    GLYPHOSATE interfere with the development
    Off the nervous system from the first appearancevofvthe neural streak mostly. affecting cephalic development and can be attributed to anencephaly. Seneff & Nigh 2017 which means Glyphosate crosses the placenta. As a chelator Glyphosate grabs important nutrients needed for important physiological reaction. In the soil Glyphosate inhibited the uptake of essential amino acids which means they are no longer found in food and affect the manufacture of important brain neurotransmitters.
    I support all efforts to eliminate Glyphosate from our environment, food production and vaccinations.

  5. Maggie Harford August 1, 2019 at 06:14 - Reply

    I am so pleased to read this.

  6. Julie Barth August 1, 2019 at 18:16 - Reply

    I believe glyphosates are directly related to the death of my full term fetus. I am so happy people are recognizing it as a threat, instead of hiding from an inconvenient truth.

  7. Tran thi Lanh August 2, 2019 at 09:19 - Reply

    All farmer over the planet should recognize the hidden driving force of the damaging our living to day is MONSANTO and their alliance such as Bill Gate, IRRI, USAID and other so call professors, researcher who are in the same boat

    Hand in hand together to kick out them in any territory in any country.

  8. Virginia Cusick August 4, 2019 at 11:52 - Reply

    Thank you for the work you do.

    We, in America also need some investigation of the 2000+ chemicals currently being used to water our crops {including ORGANICS} from the fracking industry.

    You can actually see oil floating on top of the water in the farm irrigation systems and even the government is not allowed to know all of these chemicals!

    Everyone paying top prices for their organic foods are being lied to and poisoning their children. We need someone to help force labeling that explains the danger/risk of feeding this poison to their families.

  9. Olive Jackson September 28, 2019 at 13:52 - Reply

    I’ve been fighting this battle for years, ever since “agricultural drift” nearly killed me in rural Georgia. I now live in rural England where the spraying is not as intense, but does exist to cause me glyphosate overload symptoms three or four times a year when farmers spray their fields around my village. Symptoms? Headache, eye gunk, itchy and grainy ears, joint pain, itchy genitals, creepy dreams, nausea, fatigue and overall malaise. Locals with headache and etc. say “the pollen is bad today.” The local clinic supports that view.

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