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22nd Apr 2019

Seven of 28 EU states give feedback on glyphosate plan

  • The possible renewal of the glyphosate license has led to citizens' protests (Photo: Felix Kindermann / Campact)

Only one in four EU member states responded to the European Commission's request to put their thoughts about the licence renewal of glyphosate on paper.

The commission, the EU's executive, asked national governments to send "written comments" on its proposal to renew the license of the herbicide for 10 years.

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A Commission spokeswoman told EUobserver on Monday (4 September) that seven member states had done so. She did not want to disclose which ones.

The question whether to renew the permit to sell glyphosate in the EU has become a controversial subject.

Although the European Food Safety Authority has declared the pesticide to be safe, there are worries among citizens' groups that glyphosate can cause cancer.

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer gave glyphosate the classification "probably carcinogenic to humans", or Group 2A.

Other agents in Group 2A are anabolic steroids, red meat, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) type 68.

Qualified majority

Last year, the European standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed (Paff) postponed the vote on renewing the glyphosate licence several times because it was clear there was no qualified majority among member states to support it.

A qualified majority, or double majority, means that at least 16 of 28 member states must be in favour, and that the member states in favour must represent at least 65 percent of the EU's population.

As a compromise, the EU commission proposed to renew the license for 10 years, instead of the regular 15 years.

At the Paff meeting of 20 July, it asked member states to comment on its proposal. The commission called on states to send their comments in the next 15 days or, "if not possible given the summer holidays", by last Friday (1 September).

According to spokespeople at national governments contacted by EUobserver, the following member states did not respond to that request: at least Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Sweden. Latvia, Poland, and Romania added they did support the proposal.

Sources from Finland and Hungary noted that that their countries supported the commission's proposal, but were unsure if it had been communicated in a document.

The Netherlands, where political parties are still negotiating a coalition agreement, has no definitive position.

Germany, France, UK

The absence of a reply from the two largest EU member states, Germany and France, is notable.

In Germany, it is unlikely that a position will be reached before the 24 September elections. The country's agriculture ministry is led by a politician from the centre-right Christian Social Union, while the environment department is run by a centre-left Social Democrat.

Meanwhile in France, which saw a new government elected in May, the environment ministry reportedly wants to vote against renewal.

The United Kingdom did respond to the commission's call, a spokeswoman for the country's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told EUobserver.

"We recognise the importance of effective pesticides and UK experts agree with the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency Committee for Risk Assessment, which show that glyphosate is not likely to cause harm to people," she said, adding that the UK government therefore supports the continuing approval of glyphosate.

The next Paff committee meeting in which the issue can be discussed, is scheduled for 5 and 6 October. The latest possible vote is on 6 November 2017. Without a decision then, the license will expire at the end of the year.

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