France to Deny Reau­tho­riz­ing Glyphosate Sales in the Euro­pean Union

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It ap­pears France is pre­pared to be the block­ing vote to keep the EU from sell­ing or de­ploy­ing the toxic weed killer glyphosate.

Although the de­ci­sion has not hap­pened yet, the is­sue of glyphosate’s le­gal­iza­tion in Europe has be­come highly politi­cized in re­cent months.

Glyphosate, the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in Mon­santo’s Roundup, one of the most widely-used weed killers in the world, has been a con­tro­versy for years be­cause many stud­ies have la­beled it a po­ten­tial car­cino­gen.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has pre­vi­ously pub­lished re­search con­clud­ing that the chem­i­cal is car­cino­genic with lit­tle doubt. The chem­i­cal has also been linked to nu­mer­ous tu­mors and other ill­nesses as it has in­creased in use, es­pe­cially in the United States. There are also stud­ies which show glyphosate can have a dis­as­trous im­pact on im­por­tant soil mi­crobes, by scram­bling their DNA and ef­fec­tively con­vert­ing once-healthy mi­crobes into toxic dis­ease agents of their own.

Glyphosate is cur­rently le­gal to use and ap­ply in Europe un­der past rul­ings, but its li­cense is sched­uled to ex­pire at the end of this year and must be for­mally re­newed for sales and use of the chem­i­cal to con­tinue. It is a crit­i­cal ‘part­ner chem­i­cal’ with­out which Mon­santo’s cur­rent Ge­net­i­cally-mod­i­fied Crop (GMO) wildly-suc­cess­ful prod­ucts can­not suc­ceed. The GMOS which work with glyphosate are ge­net­i­cally-en­gi­neered to with­stand the im­pact of even heavy ap­pli­ca­tions of the dan­ger­ous weed killer. There is a lot of money at stake here for Mon­santo to pro­tect.

Mon­santo is it­self fight­ing the ban through lob­by­ing and at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence sci­en­tists an­a­lyz­ing the risks of us­ing glyphosate. It also has a new part­ner in the bat­tle with some strong lo­cal cre­den­tials, in the form of its new cor­po­rate par­ent Bayer, who agreed to buy Mon­santo in Septem­ber 2016. With Bayer it­self al­ready a global gi­ant in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, chem­i­cal and agribusi­ness com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing its own line of GMO crops and re­lated weed and pest chem­i­cals, Bayer is also fight­ing for Mon­santo’s glyphosate to get ap­proved as well. Bayer also hap­pens to be head­quar­tered in Lev­erkusen, North Rhine-westphalia, Ger­many, right in the heart of the Euro­pean Union’s most suc­cess­ful econ­omy.

While past analy­ses had sug­gested it was a high prob­a­bil­ity that the li­cense to sell or use glyphosate would not be re­newed in the EU, sev­eral other fac­tors this year re­set that ex­pec­ta­tion. In March, the EU’S own chem­i­cals agency is­sued a find­ing that they felt glyphosate should not be classed as a car­cino­gen. Then in May, a new set of re­views car­ried out by the UN’S Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) and WHO, which con­cluded that “glyphosate is un­likely to pose a car­cino­gen risk to hu­mans from ex­po­sure through the diet”.

The EU’S find­ing in March and the May analy­ses are con­tra­dicted by many other find­ings, in­clud­ing tes­ti­mony last year at The Hague Tri­bunal about glyphosate, which found the chem­i­cal to be both car­cino­genic as well as linked to tu­mor cre­ation and many other se­ri­ous ill­nesses. Th­ese two 2017 re­sults, how­ever, were more than enough to trig­ger the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to pro­pose re­new­ing the li­cense to sell and use glyphosate in the EU, for 2018 and be­yond.

De­spite the March and May con­clu­sions, how­ever, the Euro­pean pub­lic is not at all con­vinced of the safety of the glyphosate. As back­ing for their po­si­tion, more than one mil­lion peo­ple in the EU signed a pe­ti­tion in June of this year de­mand­ing that the EU ban glyphosate as soon as pos­si­ble.

The fi­nal vote for the EU to re­new or deny the li­cense is cur­rently sched­uled for Oc­to­ber 4. As­sum­ing France stays stead­fast in its de­ci­sion to block the re­newal, that should pro­vide enough votes to deny Mon­santo’s glyphosate sales – at least for now.

Photo by gaelic,

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