Commission forced into u-turn on glyphosate
THE European Commission has been forced into a climbdown over the renewal of glyphosate’s EU licence.
EU countries will now have to decide whether to approve the use of the controversial weedkiller for a further five years, rather than the 10-year period favoured by the Commission.
Glyphosate’s current EU licence will run out at the end of 2017, but EU governments have so far failed to come to an agreement on whether to reauthorise it.
Ireland is in favour of a renewal, but opposition and indecision in France, Germany and Italy — three of the EU’s largest economies — has put paid to an agreement, which requires a double majority of EU countries and populations in order to pass.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, is the world’s most-used herbicide, with EU sales valued at around €1bn.
It has been licensed at EU level since 2002 but has been in use since the 1970s.
A row erupted over its safety in 2015, after a World Health Organisation panel said it “probably” causes cancer. The EU’s chemicals and food safety agencies say it is “unlikely” to be carcinogenic to humans.
An EU expert committee on plants, animals, food and feed met last week to discuss glyphosate but failed to vote on the existing proposal.
A vote is now scheduled for November 9.
A spokesperson for the Commission said it would work with EU governments to “find a solution that enjoys the largest possible support”.
So far there are 12-13 countries likely to come out in favour of a five- year extension, but others will have to go back to their governments to check on the new proposal.
The Commission’s climbdown follows a European Parliament vote calling for a five-year renewal of glyphosate’s licence, coupled with an eventual ban on its use by 2022. The vote is not binding.
EU farmers hit out at the move, with agricultural federation Copa and Cogeca saying in a statement that it “gives a wrong signal to the public” about glyphosate’s safety and puts farmers at a “competitive disadvantage” compared to non-EU producers.
An EU-wide petition to ban glyphosate garnered over a million signatures and was formally submitted to the Commission earlier this month. The EU executive is legally obliged to react to it.