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No consensus on glyphosate in the EU

Member states fail to agree on length of renewal

by Britt E. Erickson
October 25, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 43

The representatives of the European citizens' initiative against glyphosate, Franziska Achterberg (l-r, Greenpeace EU unit), Helmut Burtscher (GLOBAL200 - Friends of the Earth Austria), Martin Pigeon (Corporate Europe Observatory), Mika Leandro (WeMove.E U), Jorgo Riss (Greenpeace E U unit), Angeliki Lysimachou (Pesticide Action Network Europe), Lisa Vickers (Avaaz) and David Schwartz (WeMove.E U/E C I coalition coordinator) hold up a banner reading 'Stop Glyphosat' during a protest in Brussels 23 October 2017.
Credit: Oliver Beckhoff/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom
More than 1.3 million citizens in the EU are urging regulators to ban the herbicide glyphosate.

European Union officials have postponed a key decision on whether to reauthorize use of glyphosate, after a vote by the European Parliament in favor of phasing out the controversial herbicide by 2022. The chemical’s current EU license expires on Dec. 15.

The European Parliament, made up of elected representatives, passed its nonbinding resolution to ban glyphosate on Oct. 24. A committee of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, planned to vote on Oct. 25 on a proposal to renew the chemical’s license in the EU for 10 years. But after the Parliament vote, the Commission dropped the proposal.

Debate over the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, has been escalating in the EU since 2015, when the World Health Organization’s cancer agency classified the chemical as a probable carcinogen. Earlier this month, the Commission received a petition signed by more than 1.3 million EU citizens, urging member states to ban use of glyphosate in the EU and reform the pesticide approval process.

EU officials failed to get enough votes to reauthorize glyphosate in June 2016, when the Commission proposed renewing it for 15 years. Rather than letting glyphosate authorization lapse, the Commission extended glyphosate’s license for 18 months while regulators evaluated the herbicide’s safety. The European Chemicals Agency has since declared there is no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer or reproductive effects. The European Food Safety Authority came to the same conclusion.

But EU member nations have yet to reach consensus on an appropriate length of time for glyphosate’s reauthorization. The Commission is now trying for an agreement in the five- to seven-year range.

Farm groups and pesticide makers are urging EU officials to reauthorize use of glyphosate for 15 years, the full term for a pesticide. “Without renewal, our affordable food supplies and agricultural conservation will be thrown into jeopardy,” says Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of Copa and Cogeca, groups that represent European farmers and agricultural co-ops. Failing to renew glyphosate’s license “would break consumer trust in our institutions and decision makers and allow minority views to take the stage,” he says.

EU officials are expected to discuss glyphosate reauthorization again at the next committee meeting on Nov. 6.



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