The EU's Appeals Committee of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has controversially approved the European Commission's proposal to renew glyphosate’s licence for five years.
The current licence for glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, expires on 15 December.
The decision was taken on Monday by representatives of European governments following seven failed attempts to come to a compromise on proposals put forward by the European Commission over the last year and a half and amidst strong political and public discontent.
The agreement foresees a five-year reauthorisation of the herbicide without any restrictions on its use.
In doing so the committee ignored a European Parliament resolution adopted with majority support last month.
The resolution demands a full glyphosate exit by 2022 and immediate restrictions for public spaces, including playgrounds and parks, where vulnerable groups such as children could be exposed.
Reaction was swift with Greens/EFA group MEP Bart Staes commenting: "This is a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment. The decision taken today by a narrow qualified majority of member states has locked the EU into another five years of toxic agriculture.
"The entire glyphosate saga has shown that our current approval process is completely unfit for purpose. Decisions on whether potentially harmful substances are permitted for use in the EU need to be taken much more transparently, and should not be able to ignore the view of the democratically elected European Parliament, or independent and publicly available science.
"The campaign against glyphosate put a major dent in the arguments of the likes of Monsanto, and we will make sure we finish the job in five years' time" Bart Staes MEP
“There are also significant questions to be asked about the role of the EU agencies in the approval process.”
"The campaign against glyphosate put a major dent in the arguments of the likes of Monsanto, and we will make sure we finish the job in five years' time."
Elsewhere, Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Glyphosate damages nature, probably causes cancer, and props up an industrial farming system that is degrading the land we need to feed ourselves. Approval, even if only for five years, is a missed opportunity to get rid of this risky weedkiller and start to get farmers off the chemical treadmill.
“Five more years of glyphosate will put our health and environment at risk, and is a major setback to more sustainable farming methods.”
Genon Jensen, executive director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said: “European governments failed European citizens and future generations today by granting the world’s most widely used weed killer a new license to harm our health and our environment, rather than setting a date to ban glyphosate once and for all.”
"This simply prolongs the uncertainty for our farmers, who are being badly let down. They cannot plan for the future without long term assurances about the availability of substances they rely on" Ashley Fox MEP
“Ignoring well-founded concerns about glyphosate’s impacts on human health and the European evaluation process will further damage the image of the European Union at a time of already high distrust. Putting health first today and for future generations could make Europe a frontrunner of the transition towards a more sustainable agriculture and healthier planet, as well as reduce the risk of cancer, which affects 3.45 million new cases of cancer and 1.75 million deaths from cancer in Europe each year.”
However, some MEPs said the compromise decision fell short of the European Commission's initial recommendation of a 15 year renewal and had therefore caused confusion and uncertainty for farmers.
British Conservative delegation leader Ashley Fox said, "This simply prolongs the uncertainty for our farmers, who are being badly let down. They cannot plan for the future without long term assurances about the availability of substances they rely on.
"Glyphosate has been approved for use by both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemical Agency, bodies set up and funded by the EU precisely to provide this kind of expert advice.
"Yet instead of evidence-based decision making, the EU comes up with an emotional, irrational but politically convenient fudge. It sets a worrying precedent.”