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Glyphosate renewed for five years in the EU

Surprise decision by Germany swings vote in favor of reapproval of controversial herbicide

by Britt E. Erickson
November 28, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 48

A tractor spraying a field in Germany.
Credit: Shutterstock
The controversial herbicide glyphosate can continue being sprayed on crops in the EU for at least five years.

The world’s top-selling herbicide, glyphosate, can stay on the market in the European Union for another five years after an unexpected vote in favor of the renewal by German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt. Germany abstained from voting in all previous deliberations on glyphosate over the past few months. Schmidt took the decision into his own hands on Nov. 27, voting in favor of the five-year renewal, despite a lack of agreement within the German government. His decision was enough to swing the EU vote after months of talks ended in stalemate.

The final vote by the European Commission’s Appeal Committee was 18 in favor, nine against, and one abstention.

Farm groups and the pesticide industry are welcoming an end to the debate over glyphosate’s renewal in the EU, but they were hoping for a 15-year reauthorization. “We are pleased the substance has been reapproved, however not pleased that despite overwhelming scientific evidence it is only for a period of five years,” says Graeme Taylor, spokesperson for the pesticide industry group European Crop Protection Association. “This debate clearly sets many precedents for the future, and one of the most worrying is the way the movement against the substance has been driven by organizations relying on fear rather than science.”

The French government remains opposed to the five-year renewal for glyphosate. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his disappointment with the vote, pledging on Twitter that France will ban the use of glyphosate “as soon as alternatives are found, and at the latest in three years.” He added, “#MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain.”

Concerns about the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and many generic formulations, have been escalating since the World Health Organization’s cancer agency deemed the chemical a probable carcinogen in 2015. Regulators around the world, including the European Chemicals Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, dispute that classification, saying there is no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer or reproductive effects.



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