The Standing Committee on Plant Animal Food and Feed, composed of experts from all 28 member states, began a closed-door meeting yesterday (Monday ) in Brussels.
The meeting had been expected to endorse a European Commission proposal to extend authorization of glyphosate for 15 years until 2031.
However growing opposition from environmental and health campaigners has meant that the debate over glyphosate has become a political hot potato.
The European Commission has said the meeting will continue today and it could not yet confirm the outcome.
It is understood the EU needs a decision over the coming weeks to prevent a legal vacuum when an existing approval expires at the end of June.
According to press reports, EU sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they no longer expected a decision at this meeting after the French, Swedish and Dutch governments said they would oppose extending approval, while EU diplomats said Germany planned to abstain.
Last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organisation, classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
But in Europe, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), acting on behalf of the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), proposed to classify glyphosate as non-carcinogenic.”
“There’s no room for compromise,” said Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food International.
“We have to decide whether the future of food is to be in the hands of the chemical industry with its promises to feed the planet—which, judging from the hundreds of thousands of tons of glyphosate sold every year, is a guise for evident economic interests—or of a policy that has the health of consumers and environmental welfare at heart.”
In a statement, Greenpeace said governments should oppose renewing the EU license for glyphosate "as long as uncertainty remains over the risks it poses".
Earlier last week FoodNavigator reported how six environmentalist groups filed a formal complaint against EU regulators for denying the link between glyphosate and cancer.
The complaint filed in Berlin accused regulators of “serious violations of the statutory regulations and scientific standards which were used to deny the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.”
Just days later, on the eve of the talks, environmental and health campaigners presented EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis with a 180,000-signature petition calling for the banning of glyphosate.
A statement on the website of Monsanto, which calls Roundup the flagship of its agro-chemicals business, said it strongly disagrees with IARC's classification of glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans". It has filed a legal challenge in the United States.