European Union member states are expected to vote on the renewal of the licence for glyphosate, which expires on 15 December, on Wednesday (23 October).
The European Commission has proposed granting EU approval for the chemical for another ten years. This recommendation was based on the evaluation of the European Food Safety Authority, which found the chemical to be safe for human consumption. However, findings from the World Health Organization, have linked glyphosate to possible cancer risks.
In a recent report, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classed glyphosate as a Group 2a carcinogen, a substance that probably causes cancer in people.
This assessment was based on the view that there was “sufficient evidence” glyphosate causes cancer in animals and “limited evidence” it can do so in humans.
The classification, which prompted litigation in the US against supplier Monsanto, has resulted in calls for the chemical to be banned from use in European agriculture.
Four countries – France, Italy, Austria and Luxembourg – have already said they will vote against the Commission’s proposal to approve the license. Others, including Germany, are expected to abstain from the vote.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament is expected to pass a resolution demanding glyphosate be phased out by 2020. Calling on Member States not to approve the agricultural use of the chemical, the resolution suggests the EC’s proposed renewal draft fails to ensure “a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment” and fails to apply the precautionary principle.
In an open letter published in Le Monde today, 54 MPs from President Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche! party voiced further support for a ban. “Banning glyphosate, while properly supporting farmers in a transition, on a short and realistic schedule, is a good compromise,” they wrote.
The issue has also gained traction with consumers. Representatives from the Stop Glyphosate European Citizens’ Initiative met Vytenis Andriukaitis today to present the European commissioner for health and food safety with a petition signed by over one million European citizens.
The petition calls for a ban on glyphosate, an overall reduction in pesticide use, and more transparency and independence in assessments of the risks posed by pesticides
Jorgo Riss, Greenpeace EU director, said: “The glyphosate debacle has shown that the Commission continues to put the short-term interests of chemical companies before people’s health and the environment. Its failure to act on the concerns voiced by independent scientists, parliamentarians and over a million Europeans is a disgrace.
“Scientific research and the experience of thousands of organic farmers show that pesticides and glyphosate are not necessary. To help restore faith in the EU, the Commission must set a path to phase out dangerous pesticides and ensure healthy food and environmentally friendly farming.”