Member states delay glyphosate decision

Written by Martin Banks on 25 October 2017 in News

A final decision on whether the EU will renew the license for glyphosate, the controversial weed killer, has now been postponed until next month.

A final decision on glyphosate has been postponed until next month | Photo credit: Press Association

The latest twist in the long running saga comes after the EU’s standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed met on Wednesday to discuss the European Commission’s proposal to renew glyphosate’s licence for 10 years.

The committee, representing member states, had been expected to extend glyphosate’s licence for a further decade.

The body is thought to have come under pressure from several countries, including France and Italy, and at the meeting, no formal vote was taken.


The Commission, which had previously promised not to renew glyphosate’s licence without qualified majority support from member states, says it will now reflect on the issue.

A final decision has been postponed until November, just a month before the weed killer’s current licence expires.

The latest developments come after the European Parliament this week adopted a resolution asking for a full phase out of glyphosate by 2022 with no extension.

On Wednesday, the Commission was accused by ECR group MEP Ashley Fox of “ignoring scientific evidence and caving into political pressure” over the use of glyphosate.

He said, “It is unacceptable that the EU spends hundreds of millions of euros on expert research and scientific advisory bodies just to ignore any findings that are politically inconvenient.

“How can the EU protect agriculture, the environment and businesses when it takes more notice of lobbyists than scientists and acts for short term political gain?”

Fox added, “This continuing fiasco undermines the EU’s credibility and our farmers deserve better. They cannot plan for the future without long-term assurances about the availability of substances they rely on, such as glyphosate. There are no readymade biological alternatives and none are expected to be commercially viable in the near future.”

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer and is subject to strict regulation.

The chemical is widely used to control weeds on runways and railway lines and by gardeners. 

In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer aroused controversy when it described glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. However since then, the weed killer has been pronounced safe by organisations including the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Agency and the UN-World Health Organisation Meeting on Pesticide Residues.

The pesticide industry has lobbied heavily in favour of a renewal of the license but environmentalists have spoken out forcefully against.

Greens/EFA group food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said, “The European Commission has clearly failed to convince a sufficient number of member states that its proposals are safe.”

The Belgian deputy added, “Parliament has already set out a credible and fair timetable to allow farmers to make the transition to a glyphosate-free Europe. 

“With the majority of MEPs against glyphosate, and time running out to make a decision, the Commission should back down and bring forward proposals to swiftly phase out glyphosate use in the EU."

Elsewhere, Natacha Cingotti, Health and Chemicals Policy Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), said, “Member states should not be lured by the Commission’s offer to reduce the renewal period, which leaves the room fully open for a reauthorisation of glyphosate beyond 2022 and turns a deaf ear to the European Parliament’s demand for a full ban without any extension.”

“The science is clear about glyphosate’s numerous adverse effects on health and the environment, and the public all around Europe is asking for a glyphosate-free future. Safe and viable sustainable alternatives exist; politicians have the responsibility to agree on a full ban as soon as possible.”  


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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