‘EU failure over herbicide threatens whole industry’
It was another groundhog day for glyphosate yesterday – with the EU specialist committee charged with taking a decision on the re-licensing of the world’s most widely used herbicide once again failing to reach a conclusive verdict.
In a repeat of the previous meeting, a split vote from the standing committee on plant animal food and feed (Scopaff) failed to deliver the “qualified majority” required to approve the use of the product for even the commission’s reduced fiveyear recommendation.
But, despite the deadlock, 14 countries – representing 37 per cent of the voting power – supported a renewal of the product’s licence. Sources indicated that the countries in favour of its continued use included the UK, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and Lithuania.
Nine countries, representing just over 32 per cent of the vote, are believed to have voted against the proposals for a five-year renewal, consisting of Belgium, France, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta and Austria.
And while only five countries abstained – Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Portugal 0 English N FU chief Guy Smith called for action and Romania – their voting power accounted for around 31 per cent, leaving the decision in limbo.
It is expected that the issue will now go to the EU’S appeals committee to take a decision before the product’s licence lapses in mid December.
The UK’S Crop Protection Association (CPA) termed the outcome “a devastating blow” for UK farmers who would now face continued uncertainty over the availability of this important management tool.
“It is disappointing that some member states are continuing to politicise glyphosate, publicly blocking the reauthorisation whilst privately urging the commission to reapprove” said Sarah Mukherjee, chief executive of the CPA.
“They are ignoring the science and therefore risking the livelihoods of European farmers and the continued availability of safe, healthy, affordable food for consumers.
Urging the commission to take action and grant the standard 15-year licence, she continued: “Anything less undermines the work of independent, expert regulators at EFSA and ECHA who all agree glyphosate is safe.”
Farmer and vice-president of the English NFU, Guy Smith, said that allowing member states to continue playing politics in the face of overwhelming science and evidence showing glyphosate’s safety undermined the credibility of the EU’S entire regulatory process.
He said the commission should stand by its own science – and “step in and over-ride the political wrangling by re-authorising the product for a full 15 years”.
NFU Scotland president Andrew Mccornick said that glyphosate was vital to Scottish farmers who used it to control weeds, manage harvests, and reduce grain drying costs.
“This failure to obtain a majority vote is just creating further uncertainty for our members, many of whom need to start planning for next year,” he said.
He encouraged farmers to support NFU Scotland by lobbying and personally e-mailing and/or tweeting president Jean-claude Juncker, commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis and commissioner Phil Hogan to explain the importance of glyphosate to their businesses.