Monday

21st May 2018

Opinion

The anti-glyphosate lobby strikes again

  • Activists 'sabotage' Monsanto's Roundup product with fake health warnings (Photo: Global Justice Now)

The current authorisation period for glyphosate in the EU comes to an end in December this year. But still no agreement on a renewal has been agreed upon.

What should really be a non-issue and a formality has turned into a total mess, since the anti-glyphosate lobby has mobilised on all fronts to hinder a renewal. It is a story about flawed science and scientists wearing two hats.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Glyphosate is the most commonly-used active substance in herbicides. It has revolutionised agriculture since it was developed in the 1970s. Today it is used in 140 countries and has increased crop yields for farmers all over the world, while at the same time the need for manpower has decreased alongside with CO2 emissions.

Still the Green group in the European Parliament, with substantial help from activist scientists, has continuously questioned the use of glyphosate, with the result that no agreement on a renewed authorisation has been reached.

You could of course oppose the use of glyphosate on ideological grounds, in the end politics is about values and depending on what values you prioritise you reach different political conclusions.

However, it is hypocrisy when the Greens try to dress up their purely ideological arguments in scientific reasoning.

Especially since the one scientific study the anti-glyphosate gang rely upon is doubtful, to put it mildly.

The study in question was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organisation cancer agency, and shows that glyphosate is probably cancerogenic.

Not only has the IARC findings been refuted repeatedly by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the German Institute for Risk Assessment and regulatory bodies all over the world, including in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Conflict of interest?

Later it was also revealed that the scientist in charge of the IARC evaluation was part of another research team, which, too, studied the link between glyphosate and cancer.

In the scientific data from that research no evidence of a link between cancer and glyphosate was found. IARC, however, takes into consideration only published research in its evaluations.

And as a coincidence the research was not published in time for the IARC evaluation and the scientist never mentioned the study's results for the IARC panel.

The scientist later said that if the scientific data from that study would have been included, it is less likely that IARC would classify glyphosate as "probably cancerogenic".

But it is does not end with that. Just a couple of days ago it was revealed that changes were made between the IARC draft report and the finalised published version.

Central sections of the draft were changed or deleted in the report that was later made public. Conclusions from multiple studies that showed no connection between glyphosate and cancer in laboratory animals were removed.

In other cases negative conclusions on the link between glyphosate and cancer were replaced with a positive or neutral one. When asked why that was the case IARC has not been able to give a sufficient answer. It is worth repeating: this is the only evaluation opponents to glyphosate refer to.

It is not the most solid case to say the least.

The IARC classification of glyphosate as probably cancerogenic has also been a key aspect of an ongoing trial in the US, where people accuse Monsanto, that the company's glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup has caused them cancer.

One might ask, why is this of interest in this context? It is of interest because one of the advisers of the IARC evaluation received no less than $160,000 from the law firms bringing claims by cancer victims against Monsanto.

'Activist' scientists

The same adviser has been one of the most activist scientists in the debate surrounding glyphosate. When he in a letter called on the European Commission to accept the IARC classification he did not declare his links to the law firms. The scientist thus tried to hide the fact that he was obviously wearing two hats - that do not match very well.

It has almost turned into a sport for the anti-glyphosate lobby to insinuate that politicians who are in favour of renewing the authorisation for glyphosate are either tricked by the industry or more likely paid by it. Of course, no evidence is provided. But the mere accusation is enough for most people to stay silent.

But if there is one thing the mess of the IARC evaluation and the Monsanto trials show, it is that the anti-glyphosate side do not play by the rules.

Really it should come as no surprise. When you lack proper arguments you get desperate and start not only to suspect the other side and the other side's intentions and motives, but also circumvent the rules yourself.

It is time to stop this nonsense. Feel free to oppose a renewal of glyphosate in the EU, but please argue for your sake in an honest and grown-up way. This issue is way too important both for millions of European farmers and for the environment to be treated like this.

Christofer Fjellner is a Swedish MEP with the EPP group

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.

Focus

EU postpones decision on glyphosate

Member state representatives met on Wednesday to discuss a renewal of the licence of the controversial weedkiller. 'At the conclusion of the meeting, no vote was taken', the commission said.

Focus

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".

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Europe's last wild rivers under threat at Balkans summit

The EU is prioritising motorways and gas pipelines across the potential accession Western Balkan countries, plus hydropower energy projects which threaten one of the world's freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight