Europe’s glyphosate stalemate continues

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/YuraDobro
© GettyImages/YuraDobro

Related tags European commission European union

The deadlock over glyphosate continues as EU policy-makers today failed to gather support for the Commission’s proposal to renew the herbicide for another five years.

Member states representatives of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) met in Brussels today to vote on glyphosate's reauthorisation but failed to secure a majority, either for or against.

The European Commission said it will now submit the proposal to the appeal committee at the end of November.

Glyphosate’s current licence for use in the EU will expire on 15 December, and the European Commission had proposed a five-year renewal of the herbicide.

COCERAL: The deadlock undermines EU credibility

Farming association COCERAL, which is lobbying for the customary 15-year reauthorisation period, said it was disappointed by the result.

Secretary general Teresa Babuscio said: "The deadlock on glyphosate undermines the credibility of EU institutions and independent scientific bodies. Questioning the full re-authorisation of glyphosate and disregarding the robust scientific evidence behind its safety would set a dangerous precedent threatening science-based policy decisions in the EU​."

"Trust in science is essential. The current political bargaining on glyphosate re-authorisation by decision-makers ignoring conclusions of their own scientific agencies is deplorable and benefits no one​."

Earlier this week, Babuscio urged a favourable vote, saying glyphosate enabled farmers to produce “safe, affordable, quality food”.

The active substance glyphosate, also sold in Monsanto's consumer-facing weedkiller under the brand name RoundUp, is the most widely used herbicide in the world.

Vice president of the UK's National Farmers' Union (NFU) Guy Smith said: “Like most farmers, it is maddening for me to see the future of such a key crop production material, which secures so much environmental benefit, to be treated like a political football."

HEAL: 'Concerns aren't going to go away'

Consumer, health and environmental groups, however, welcomed the continued stalemate.

Well-founded concerns about its impacts on human health and the European evaluation process are not going away," ​policy officer for health and chemicals at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) Natacha Cingotti. 

"We urge member states to stand up for their citizens and press the European Commission to deliver a full exit plan for glyphosate, including strict restrictions for use, as soon as possible."

Food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe Adrian Bebb, said the vote was the result of overwhelming public pressure and a clear lack of political support.

“This weedkiller locks in reckless industrial farming, damages nature and probably causes cancer. When the final decision comes around, there's only one responsible option – take it off the market immediately, and support farmers to help them get off the chemical treadmill​."

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has given the herbicide the all-clear​ but the World Health Organisation’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published an opinion​ in which it said the chemical was probably carcinogenic.

Most MEPs want a ban

Last month the European Parliament asked the Commission to ban glyphosate by 2022 in a non-binding resolution, with 355 in favour of the ban, 204 against and 111 abstentions. 

The resolution called for immediate restrictions on its use for private use and in public areas and for a gradual phase-out in agriculture.

Ahead of this vote, French environment minister and high profile ecologist Nicolas Hulot called for a renewal capped at three years.

During these three years, we would look at everything we can in terms of finding an alternative and helping those for whom using glyphosate is necessary to go towards other practices and other techniques​,” he said on RTL​.

The French arm of industry watchdog association Foodwatch called on the French government to support a full ban and put in place an efficient support system for farmers.

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