Updated: Glyphosate license to be extended for 18 months

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock.com/designer491
© istock.com/designer491

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EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, yesterday [28 June] said the executive would follow its ‘legal obligation’ on the herbicide.

"After EU Member States failed to take responsibility for the decision on glyphosate extension, the Commission decided to extend the approval for a limited period of time, until the European Agency for Chemical Products (ECHA) issues its opinion, by the end of 2017 at the latest,"​ added Enrico Brivio, Commission Spokesperson for Health and Food Safety, today [29 June].

The Commission said it will take into account those additional findings on the properties of the active substance when deciding on subsequent steps. 

That executive has also proposed a second text to restrict the conditions of use of glyphosate in the EU.

These conditions include a ban of a co-formulant, POE-tallowamine, from glyphosate-based products, obligations to reinforce scrutiny of pre-harvest uses of glyphosate as well as to minimise the use in specific areas such as public parks and playgrounds. "Discussions with the member states took place this week on these measures but were inconclusive,"​ said Brivio.

He said the Commission will push to have them adopted as soon as possible.

Graeme Taylor, a spokesperson for the European crop protection industry, commenting said: "I’m sure many will paint this as some kind of victory for our industry, but frankly we are disappointed that after the European Commission originally proposed a 15-year re-approval, we are now left with an 18-month extension, pending yet another assessment to add to the 90,000 pages and 3,500 studies of evidence that already exists. This only serves to demonstrate that what should be a scientific process has been completely undermined by politics.”

Revised proposal 

The Commission originally proposed a 15 year marketing license for glyphosate but, under pressure from MEPs and due to indecision by member states, it came up with a revised approach, suggesting a license for 18 months.

Though, in the end, the final decision on that revised proposal was left to the EU executive: While the majority of EU member states supported temporary approval of the controversial weedkiller, various committee meetings in June involving representatives of the EU 28 had failed to get the required qualified majority [representing at least 55% of countries and 65% of the EU population] for the authorization to take effect.

Conflicting assessments 

The renewal of glyphosate’s authorization has been hotly debated since the World Health Organization’s cancer experts (IARC) said in March 2015 the substance is a probable cause of cancer.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contradicted the IARC findings in November 2015.

Meanwhile, a joint FAO/WHO meeting on pesticide residues (JMPR) in May 2016 concluded glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet. 

Greenpeace has claimed that EFSA partly based its assessment on confidential studies commissioned by glyphosate producers, while the IARC assessment was only based on publicly available scientific evidence.

And, in April this year, MEPs called for an independent review and full disclosure of all the scientific evidence EFSA used in its November 2015 risk assessment.

EU Commission documentation on temporary authorization  

  EU Commission Glyphosate Approval Proposal

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