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15th Dec 2017

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EU postpones decision on glyphosate

  • Environmentalists oppose any renewal of glyphosate, which the World Health Organisation has described as "probably carcinogenic to humans" (Photo: Moritz Richter/Campact)

EU member states have postponed voting on whether to renew the licence of weedkiller glyphosate on Wednesday (25 October), the European Commission said in an emailed statement.

"The Standing Committee on Plant Animal Food and Feed met today to discuss renewing the approval of the active substance glyphosate," said spokeswoman Anca Paduraru on behalf of the EU's executive.

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"At the conclusion of the meeting, no vote was taken," she said.

The licence for glyphosate, used commercially in a Monsanto product called Roundup, is due to expire at the end of the year.

Although two EU agencies have recommended it as safe, environmental and health activists have turned against the proposal to renew the licence, in part because the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans".

A previous attempt to renew the licence for fifteen years failed to reach a majority of support among EU member states, following which the commission proposed a 10-year renewal.

On Tuesday (24 October), the European Parliament adopted a non-binding text calling for the phase-out of glyphosate in the coming years, with a compete ban by 2022.

Shortly after the vote, the commission announced it would propose a licence period of five to seven years.

During Wednesday's meeting, member states exposed their positions, mainly favouring a 5,7 or 10-year renewal. But it appeared that none of them would gather enough support to be adopted.

An EU source said "quite a few" member states were still in favour of a 10-year renewal - and that 'phasing out' was not considered, as that fell under different legislation.

Some national representatives said they needed to talk more with their government.


"The commission took note of the positions of the different delegations of member states upon which it will now reflect and will announce the date of the next meeting shortly," Paduraru said.

The meeting will most likely take place in the first half of November. The EU needs to take a decision before 15 December, when the current licence ends.

Ahead of the vote, Greenpeace had already criticised the commission's compromise proposal.

"What matters is how much glyphosate is used and how it's used, not how long the licence is for," the campaign group said in a press release.

"The European Parliament and Europeans want a ban, not a fudge that changes nothing about how much people are exposed and how much the environment is contaminated," Greenpeace added.

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

Doubts over EU chemical agency after weedkiller study

Green MEPs and health pressure groups said the European Chemicals Agency could be suffering from conflicts of interest, after it said there wasn't enough evidence to prove that the world's most widely used weedkiller causes cancer.

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.

EU fails again to agree glyphosate renewal

Member states failed to agree on a licence renewal for weedkiller glyphosate. A new vote will take place before 22 November at the European Commission's appeal committee.

Opinion

The anti-glyphosate lobby strikes again

Opponents of glyphosate too often rely on one - contested - piece of research, or smear their opponents as stooges for the chemicals industry.

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