Glyphosate gets five-year respite as license renewed

Glyphosate has been linked to cancer
Image A World Health Organisation study found glyphosate was 'probably carcinogenic'

29 November, 2017

Nine member states (Belgium, Greece, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus Luxembourg, Malta, and Austria) kept their negative stance while Poland was the only European Union member state that abstained at this "last minute" vote for glyphosate.

18 member states voted in favour of granting the license for another 5 years, including Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania which previously abstained, while nine member states voted against and just Portugal abstained.

Under EU rules, 16 favourable votes are needed as a "qualified majority" for renewal before authorisation expires on December 15.

The herbicide's license had been due to run out in less than three weeks, raising the prospect of Monsanto's Roundup disappearing from store shelves and, potentially, a farmers' revolt.

The EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "Today's vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making".

Mr Macron tweeted: "I have asked the government to take the necessary measures for the use of glyphosate to be banned in France as soon as alternatives are found, and at the latest in three years".

Some protestors wore masks depicting EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker
Image Protesters say the weedkiller is dangerous

In 2015, the World Health Organisation's cancer agency, the IARC, famously declared glyphosate "probably carcinogenic to humans", although several worldwide agencies, including Efsa, subsequently came to opposite conclusions. It also reduces the need for ploughing, which benefits the environment and enables farmers to apply no tillage, which reduces soil erosion, and keeps soil organic matters up.

He pointed out that the Commission had originally proposed a 10-year renewal and said that the reduced licence offered "five years in which we will work to look for alternatives". European Union nations long failed to find a compromise amid conflicting health reports.

Banning glyphosate outright would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector, since it is so widely used.

Sarah Mukherjee, of Britain's Crop Protection Association, said in October: "Every independent scientific study into glyphosate has found it is safe for consumers, including the EU's own European Chemicals Agency and European Food Safety Authority".

Politically, Monday's approval proved toxic in Berlin.

Germany voted for the extension over the objection of Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, who said she had told Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt by phone Monday that she was against it.

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