European Union renews glyphosate herbicide license for 5 years, ending 'heated debate'

by Garry Watts November 29, 2017, 0:24
European Union renews glyphosate herbicide license for 5 years, ending 'heated debate'

Just two weeks after the European Commission failed to secure a majority, an intervention on Monday meant 18 of 28 EU states were now in favour and glyphosate was granted a new five-year licence.

The UK, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were among the countries that voted in favour of the chemical's reauthorisation, while Germany, France and Italy all voted against.

The Commission will now adopt the decision before the current authorisation expires on 15 December, as provided for in the applicable European Union legislation. Glyphosate's license was due to expire in mid-December.

Environmental critics say widespread use of glyphosate reduces biodiversity by killing plants essential to the habitats of various insects and animals, while a 2015 paper in the Lancet Oncology journal classified the chemical as "probably carcinogenic to humans".

"Today's vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making", said health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis.

Following the decision French President Emmanuel Macron called for government officials to establish a plan to ban glyphosate in France within three years.

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However, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has said that there isn't enough scientific evidence now available to prove that glyphosate causes cancer, with the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) arriving at the same conclusion in November 2015.

Glyphosate is the primary ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide which is the world's best selling weedkiller.

German chemical firm Bayer had been hoping for a 15-year extension rather than five, with Monsanto insisting that it met the required standards. "This is a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment". European Union nations had failed to find a compromise until Monday.

A ban on the widely used chemical would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector.

The decision has been criticized by the Germany-based Glyphosate Task Force, which stated that the approval "categorically ignored scientific advice (and was) mainly influenced by public opinion and driven by politics", according to Nature News. Germany's Social Democrat Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, suggested that the decision was taken without the department's agreement - and in spite of her opposition.


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