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21st Apr 2019

EU proposes temporary approval of controversial weed-killer

  • UK activists relabelling Roundup, Monsanto's commercial product of the glyphosate pesticide (Photo: Global Justice Now)

The European Commission will propose next week to temporarily extend the authorisation of glyphosate, in an attempt to break the political deadlock around the widely used pesticide.

“We propose a prolongation for 12 to 18 months,” said food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis at a press conference Wednesday (1 June).

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  • Andriukaitis at the meeting of commissioners on Wednesday, ahead of the press conference (Photo: European Commission)

EU member states until now failed to reach a qualified majority to give glyphosate full authorisation because of different views on risk management.

Some believe the World Health Organisation's classification of the pesticide as “probably carcinogenic to humans” is reason enough to ban it, while others point to the EU food safety authority's assessment that glyphosate is safe.

Andriukaitis noted that the EU's authorisation process is “the strictest in the world”. He added that even if it were again approved at EU level, individual member states could still restrict its use.

“They do not need to hide behind the Commision decision,” Andriukaitis said.

He also said the European Chemicals Agency in Finland would draw up an assessment to determine the pesticide's risk in causing cancer. At a previous meeting of member states, they said such an opinion was needed for a full renewal of the EU stamp of approval.

Member states will meet to discuss the file on 6 june.

Glyphosate is used as a weedkiller and sold by US firm Monsanto under the name Roundup.

Ahead of the press conference, Greenpeace said in a press release it was happy the commission is “no longer pushing for a final decision” but instead seeks a temporary extension.

“But whether the licence is for 15, nine or two years doesn't change anything in the real world. The same amount of glyphosate will be sprayed in parks, playgrounds and private gardens, and in our fields, vineyards and apple groves,” the environmental lobby group said.

The European Parliament's Green group said in a press release the proposal "has to be seen as the Commission backing down".

"While it means an eleventh hour reprieve for glyphosate, this is hopefully only temporary and this should be the beginning of the end," the sixth-largest group said.

In April, the EP adopted a non-binding text which called on the commission to approve glyphosate for seven instead of the usual 15 years.

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