Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

Focus

EU renews glyphosate approval, pledges transparency

  • A "Stop Glyphosate" petition was signed by over 1.3 million European citizens (Photo: Felix Kindermann / Campact)

A five-year renewal of the herbicide glyphosate, used in Monsanto's Roundup, was officially adopted by the European Commission on Tuesday (12 December).

On the same day, the EU executive announced new proposals for January 2018 to increase transparency of scientific studies supporting approval of substances.

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The proposals will include publishing raw data from scientific assessments and strengthen governance of the conduct of the studies.

The announcement was made in response to an EU citizens' petition to 'Stop Glyphosate' signed by over 1.3 million people.

Beside asking for more transparency, citizens had called for a complete ban of glyphosate and an overall reduction targets for the use of pesticides in the EU, with a view to a future total ban.

The commission's proposals will aim at making studies that the industry has to carry out in their assessments "publicly available", health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said.

So far "6,000 pages of scientific studies" were already made public but this was not enough, he added.

The commission's proposals for 2018 also strengthen the role that EU authorities have in the governance of relevant scientific studies.

This mean that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an EU agency in Italy, would get more power to scrutinise research.

The commission notified its intention to increase EFSA's financial means.

The agency has a budget of €80 million per year currently - not a "big budget" compared to the €5 billion that the corresponding US authority receives per year, said Andriukatis.

"We need to make sure that EFSA is equipped to deliver transparent and thorough assessments," added Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes, calling for the establishment of a special committee at the European Parliament "to investigate the failings revealed by the glyphosate process".

EFSA, alongside the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), an EU agency in Helsinki, is the European authority responsible for preparing studies on which the EU licence renewal process of glyphosate relies.

The two agencies were recently in the eye of a media storm for reporting that the glyphosate weedkiller does not present a risk to human health, despite the fact that World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified it as being "probably carcinogenetic".

Responding to the other issues in the citizens' petition, the commission said that a ban on glyphosate was not possible.

The decision to renew it "gathered the majority of member states" and was in line with what was proposed by the parliament, Andriukatis explained.

The five-year renewal of the approval of glyphosate was approved on 27 November with a positive vote of 19 member states, after more than 18 months of debate.

Health commissioner Andriukatis said that he is willing to work "towards a European target to reduce" pesticides and ensure that member states comply with their obligations under the EU current directive for a sustainable use of pesticides.

On Friday (8 December) the president of the French branch of the multinational pharmaceutical multinational Bayer - that could be about to buying Monsanto - said the company will take back the glyphosate dossier since it plans to "intensify" research on alternative methods.

In January 2018 a EU report on the "fitness check of general food law" will be published by the commission and a public consultation will be launched ahead of the preparation of the proposal due to be presented by spring 2018.

Andriukatis said that all the public authorities, NGOs, industry and users are invited to "do their share" to achieve good proposals.

If the European Commission will not take the demands of over one million EU citizens "seriously" threatened Greens/EFA president Philippe Lamberts: "We have strong arguments for referring the commission's decision to the European Court of Justice".

EU glyphosate vote hits German coalition

Chancellor Merkel disowned her agriculture minister over his decision to back a renewal of the weedkiller's licence as the issue pits Social Democrats against Christian Democrats ahead of coalition talks.

EU will formally renew glyphosate on 12 December

The European Commission will also reply to a million-strong citizens' petition to ban glyphosate, and clarify EU rules concerning scientific studies on which the herbicide's renewal was based.

Medical cannabis makes small steps in EU

As of January 1, 2018 Denmark now permits the use of medical cannabis for patients suffering from various illnesses. But a stigma still lingers against the use of the plant-based drug as a medicine across Europe.

Council of Europe warns on backlash to abortion access

In recent years, proposals for bans and restrictions on voluntary terminations have risen in some EU member states - as well as bills proposing more 'conditions' before women are allowed to access abortions.

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