In a keenly-awaited vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday, MEPs called on the Commission not to renew the licence at the end of the year, and for the controversial substance to be phased out entirely by December 2022.
The vote, however, is non-binding and comes ahead of another vote on the same issue by member states on Wednesday.
If there is no qualified majority in favour of renewing the licence by the EU’s standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed, the final decision will fall to the Commission.
In their vote during the parliamentary plenary, MEPs said the EU should draw up plans to phase out the substance, starting with a complete ban on household use and a ban in use for farming when biological alternatives “work well for weed control.”
The EU risk assessment process before renewing the substance’s licence was mired in controversy, as the UN cancer agency and EU food safety and chemicals agencies came to different conclusions regarding its safety.
MEPs also questioned the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety.
In a resolution adopted in Parliament on Tuesday, MEPs said the EU’s authorisation procedure, including the scientific evaluation of substances, should be based “only on published, peer-reviewed and independent studies commissioned by competent public authorities.”
EU agencies should be beefed up in order to allow them to work in this way.
The resolution, also non-binding, was adopted by 355 votes to 204, with 111 abstentions.
A European Citizen’s initiative calling for a ban on the herbicide reached more than a million signatures in less than a year and will trigger a public hearing in Parliament in November.
Ahead of the vote, Angélique Delahaye, EPP group negotiator on the file in the environment committee, said, “The use of glyphosate worries European citizens, obviously, but at the same time, the agricultural sector depends highly on it and it is absolutely necessary to find solutions to replace it before totally forbidding it.
“The reality is that, on this day, there are no viable alternatives for the use of glyphosate. Rather than banning it without having an alternative, we should help professionals to be trained in its proper use and make sure that non-professionals’ use of the substance is strictly limited.”
S&D group MEP Pavel Poc commented, “Today we won an important battle for health and the environment and against multinational interests. It’s a historic decision that reflects the calls from citizens and shows that the European Parliament is a truly democratic institution able to find a compromise.
“We found a good balance with a five-year phasing out period, so that EU farmers have the time to adapt before the new common agriculture policy (CAP) starting in 2020.”
ECR group environment coordinator Julie Girling said that banning glyphosate within five years and “ignoring robust scientific evidence risks undermining the EU’s entire regulatory approval process for herbicides.”
The UK deputy added, “We’ve put in place an approval system for chemicals that uses robust scientific evidence - this is the best way to protect people and the environment. Voting for a ban on a chemical such as glyphosate, when all the evidence shows it is safe, risks undermining the whole approval system and trust in it.
“Ignoring evidence because politicians do not agree with it is not an option. Farmers across the EU rely on glyphosate and the uncertainty surrounding its renewal, which exploits emotional judgement for political gain, won’t go away if it’s only approved for a further five years.”
However, Greens/EFA group MEP Bas Eickhout was pleased with the outcome of the vote, saying, “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.
“It now falls on the member states to show that they too will put safety first.”