Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

EU fails again to agree glyphosate renewal

  • The WHO says glyphosate is 'probably carcinogenic' to humans (Photo: Jacob Bøtter)

EU member states on Thursday (9 November) again failed to agree on a licence renewal period for the controversial herbicide glyphosate, used in the Monsanto produce Roundup among other produces, despite an 18-month long debate.

Ministers in the standing committee on plant animal food and feed in Brussels were not able to reach the qualified majority necessary and the meeting resulted in a "no opinion" outcome.

Thursday's vote for a five-year licence extension was the result of a compromise proposed by the European Commission, which had decided to halve its initial proposal of a 10-year licence, after the European Parliament called for glyphosate to be phased out entirely within five years on 24 October.

The environment minister of Luxembourg, Carole Dieschbourg, was one of the first to welcome the result, saying on Twitter that "Luxembourg voted against renewal and prolongation", and declaring herself satisfied for the "good outcome for our health and environment".

Green MEP Bart Staes said "it is surely time" for the Commission to "accept that support for their proposals is not there" and "listen to the European Parliament", which has proposed "a credible and fair timetable to allow farmers to make the transition to a glyphosate-free Europe."

Member states divided

In order to find a deal, member states have to reach a qualified majority. This means that 55 percent of the EU countries, representing 65 percent of the European population, have to agree on the proposal.

Out of the 28 EU member states, 14 voted in favour of the five-year proposal, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and United Kingdom.

The same countries, with the addition of Romania and Poland (now abstaining) had backed the previous 10-years proposal, with Spain initially not willing to accept years as a renewal time.

On the other hand, nine EU members states voted against the proposal, namely Belgium, Greece, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, and Austria.

France was willing to further reduce the five-year proposal.

The five member states that abstained comprised Germany (where talks to form a government coalition that would include the Greens party are underway), as well as Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal and Romania.

Appeal committee

In order to try to break the deadlock caused by Thursday's rejection of its proposal, the Commission announced that a further attempt will be taken within the appeal committee for food safety before 22 November.

The appeal committee is a Commission's procedural tool, that gives member states the opportunity to have a second discussion at the higher level on issues not yet resolved. Like the standing committee, it is made up by the state representatives and chaired by the European Commission.

If no decision decision is taken, the Commission will have the power to adopt its own proposal without the backing of European governments.

"The Commission is trying to ram through a new glyphosate licence despite massive scandals surrounding its main maker and the EU's own risk assessment" said Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg.

When asked to comment on eventual further steps during the daily press briefing, the Commission replied it was taking the issue "step by step" since "it turns out that most of the member states voted in favour".

The license for glyphosate will expire on 15 December.

Even though two EU agencies have said glyphosate is safe, some NGO and environmental activists strongly objects, as the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans".

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