Thursday

6th Oct 2022

Belgian ministers take action in EU weed killer dispute

  • Anti-glyphosate protest in Germany (Photo: Moritz Richter/Campact)

Regional environment ministers in the Brussels and Wallonia jurisdictions in Belgium have said they will ban glyphosate - a pesticide which some say probably causes cancer and whose EU stamp of approval is up for renewal.

The ministers, Celine Fremault and Carlo Di Antonio, said on Tuesday (8 March) in a joint statement that they were “stunned” that Belgium’s federal government had supported a European Commission proposal to renew glyphosate approval for another 15 years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Monsanto's Roundup, sold also in Denmark, is the most famous application of glyphosate (Photo: Jacob Bøtter)

“Environment ministers Carlo Di Antonio and Celine Fremault agree that pesticides like glyphosate represent a real risk for human health and the environment,” the statement said.

They spoke amid disagreement this week by EU governments on the future of the substance, a weed-killer that was put on the market by US company Monsanto in the 1970s.

Monsanto sells glyphosate under the brand name Roundup and also offers farmers genetically modified crops that are resistant to glyphosate.

Its EU authorisation is due to expire at the end of June. The European Commission proposed to extend the approval, based on positive advice by the European Food Safety Authority, an EU agency in Parma, Italy.

Environmentalists have waged a campaign against the renewal because the World Health Organization's (WHO’s) cancer agency found last year that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”.

EU states’ experts at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday failed to reach agreement on the file.

Greenpeace and the European Parliament's Green group welcomed the discord.

“The growing opposition among EU governments to reapproving glyphosate for use in the EU is encouraging,” German Green MEP Martin Haeusling said in a press release.

“We hope this postponement will convince more EU governments to join in opposing the approval of this controversial substance.”

Greenpeace asked countries to wait for an assessment of the effect of glyphosate on human health by the European Chemicals Agency, another commission offshoot based in Helsinki. Its conclusions are expected at the end of 2017.

“Rushing to grant a new licence now, without waiting for an evaluation by Europe’s chemical agency, would be like skydiving without checking your equipment first,” said Greenpeace's Franziska Achterberg.

“As long as there is conflicting scientific advice, glyphosate should not be approved for use in the EU,” she said.

A glyphosate industry group said last month in a statement that the pesticide “has a long history of safe use across the world”.

The WHO classification of “probably carcinogenic” applies to a wide range of substances, including anabolic steroids.

Glyphosate falls in “group 2A” of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer. Last October, the agency announced that red meat also posed a group 2A risk. It classified the consumption of processed meat in an even higher risk group - “group 1 carcinogens”.

The glyphosate dispute highlights a broader divergence in Europe.

EU policy on genetically modified organisms (GMO) is also applied in different ways in member states. Parts of European society are more open to scientific recommendations, but other parts take an emotional approach to chemical and GMO products.

The European Commission on Tuesday gave a limited comment on the EU’s internal delay.

“Discussions are ongoing, and that's all I can say from our point of view”, its spokesman, Alexander Winterstein, said.

EU agriculture ministers pummel GMO opt-out plan

The EU commission wants to give countries the power to ban GMOs. “It's not useful, it's impracticable, and it's likely to bring a large majority against it”, was one reaction.

EU declines to renew glyphosate licence

Member states did not agree on conditions to renew the permit for the chemical used in pesticides, amid contradictory evidence on a possible cancer link.

Investigation

EU weed-killer evidence 'written by Monsanto'

The EU's favourable opinion of the weed-killer chemical glyphosate was partially based on scientific evidence heavily influenced by weed-killer manufacturer Monsanto.

News in Brief

  1. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  2. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  3. Danish general election called for 1 November
  4. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  5. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  6. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  7. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  8. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians
  2. Putin's twin aim: to break Ukraine and West's consensus
  3. Putin's diamond firm off the hook in EU sanctions
  4. The Iranian regime's expiration date
  5. Let's end Bulgaria and Romania's 11-year Schengen purgatory
  6. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  7. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  8. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us