EU Member states fail to reach agreement on glyphosate licence renewal

Member states have failed to agree on the European Commission’s proposal to renew the herbicide glyphosate’s licence for five years.

Glyphosate is the main active substance in Round-Up Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

10 Nov 2017

In a vote at a meeting in Brussels, 14 countries endorsed the Commission’s plan, nine voted against and five abstained, falling short of the 16 countries and 65 per cent of the region’s population needed to reach a qualified majority.

This comes after the standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed met on Thursday to discuss the Commission's proposal to renew glyphosate's licence for five years. As at their previous meeting of 25 October, the Commission failed to secure the qualified majority needed to approve their proposals.

As the EU licence for glyphosate is due to expire on 15 December, the Commission and member states are under pressure from all fronts to decide whether to re-authorise the chemical, which has of late sparked wide controversy among scientists, regulators, civil society and the pesticide industry.


Parliament’s Greens/EFA group food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said, “It is surely time for the European Commission to accept that support for their proposals is not there. They must listen to the European Parliament, which has proposed a credible and fair timetable to allow farmers to make the transition to a glyphosate-free Europe.”

The Belgian MEP added, “With legal opinion now showing that fears of massive compensation to Monsanto are unfounded, and proven alternatives to glyphosate available, the Commission must do the right thing and ban this toxic substance.”

On 24 October, the European Parliament called for glyphosate to be phased out entirely within five years.

Further comment came from Bas Eickhout, Greens/EFA group spokesperson on environment, public health and food safety, who said, “The European Parliament has made it clear that glyphosate must go and is proposing a clear and reasonable transition time for farmers.

“There are serious questions that have yet to be answered regarding the safety of glyphosate, not only for human health but also in terms of its impact on animals and plant life.”

A spokesman for Pesticide Action Network Europe said, “There is an urgent need to phase out the use of pesticides in agriculture and adopt environmentally friendly practices that do not put human health or the environment at risk.

“Governments should demand clear targets for a phase out of glyphosate and immediate restrictions on its use. Our future generations and our ecosystems will be grateful”.

Parliament’s recent vote on glyphosate came after a European citizens’ initiative signed by 1.3 million people called for a ban on the chemical and reform the EU pesticides approval process.

The Commission has now said that the decision will be taken by an appeal committee, which will vote on the proposal by the end of November. If the appeal committee fails to reach a qualified majority, the Commission will have to take a decision and avoid any legal prosecution that may result if it fails to deliver an opinion before the glyphosate authorisation expires.

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