Sunday

16th Dec 2018

Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban

  • The debate over whether glyphosate is carcinogenic has pitted scientist against scientist, and European citizens against the Commission (Photo: Felix Kindermann / Campact)

A ban on the herbicide glyphosate, sold commercially by Monsanto as Roundup - along with more transparent scientific evaluations of pesticides and a overall reduction in their use - should be an EU priority, citizens said on Monday (20 November) at the European Parliament.

The petition was part of a initiative signed by over 1.3 million Europeans ahead of the final vote (27 November) by EU member states on a five-year renewal of the glyphosate licence, due to expire on 15 December.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The demands were debated during a public hearing held by the European Parliament's environment committee, with the participation of the European Commission.

The request to ban glyphosate, citizens say in the petition, is because the herbicide is "a serious threat to human health" and "its negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity are clearly documented"

Carcinogenic or not?

The International Agency for Research for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the product as "probably carcinogenic" to humans, despite other studies, such as those from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and other regulatory bodies, suggesting the opposite.

European legislation and procedures, citizens said, should be in line with the 2009 legislation on pesticides, that "prohibits the use of pesticides when there is sufficient evidence in laboratory animals" that can cause cancer.

There is no scientific proof that glyphosate is carcinogenic, EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said, and dismissed what he called "conspiracy theories" about multinationals' efforts to influence EU decisions.

"There is a wide consensus" about the cancerogenity of glyphsate, Mika Leandro from the Citizen's Commitee said during the debate, which is worrying since "it is found literally everywhere", including in bread and baby food.

If the majority of Europeans took a urine test, they can expect it to be positive for glyphosate, Leandro added.

The toxicity of glyphosate and 'the domino effect' it has on the environment makes the herbicide a "killer machine", said Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU food policy director, speaking at the European Parliament.

However, there are no "scientific...or legal grounds" that justify the ban of glyphosate, the European Commission commented during the debate.

"Glyphosate was evaluated by member states and authorities and the conclusion is always the same," the Commission added, saying a classification as carcinogenic is "not justified".

Last week Andriukaitis suggested applying a "common sense approach" towards glyphosate, rather than one to "create fear".

Lack of transparency

The rest of the petition by European citizens highlights the lack of transparency of EU scientific evaluation procedures for pesticides.

Assessments, Leandro said, should be "objective, transparent and independent", as required in EU pesticide legislation.

Citizens are not satisfied with the way the EU currently carries out regulatory safety evaluations, the petition states, since they "largely rely on unpublished studies" commissioned and submitted by the pesticide producers themselves, while regulatory studies to support pesticide approvals must be commissioned by public authorities.

The "failure" of the EU approval system, said Helmut Burtscher from the Citizens' Committee, is demonstrated by the fact that glyphosate should not have obtained authorisation in the first place, he claimed, since in 2011 it was classified as "probably cancerogenic" but this danger and other scientific studies have been "ignored and denied" by the EU authorities.

The EFSA report about carcinogenicity, added Burtscher, is basically "an exercise in copy-paste" and the majority of their studies are not available and cannot be examined by the AIRC.

Securing food supplies

The third and final proposal of the citizens' initiative concerns an EU-wide mandatory reduction target for the use of pesticides, since more than 480 other pesticide substances are currently authorised for use in the EU, while the relevant legislation states only "that pesticides should only be used when all other methods have failed."

EU pesticides legislation, the petition adds, also "mandates EU member states to establish concrete measures and objectives to reduce overall pesticide use", but states are not "sufficiently implementing the directive" and the European Commission "has yet to evaluate its effect."

The ultimate aim, citizens said, is that the EU should achieve a "pesticide-free future".

"We have already the strictest targets in the world" countered European People's Party's MEP Elisabetta Gardini. "What kind of agriculture are they looking for? They think about an elite agriculture, for rich people" MEP added.

The European Commission agreed on the need for improving implementation of the EU legislation on pesticides, and said that it will "evaluate national plans of action" and continue its monitoring activity during 2018.

"Pesticides won't ever win a beauty competition", admitted commissioner Andriukaitis but they have an important role in "guaranteeing adequate food supplies".

Signatures for the initiative were collected thanks to a coalition of farmers and environment protection associations and NGOs, Citizens' Committee's representative said.

The required statement of support (1 million signatures) was achieved in less than five months, which was a "record" never achieved before, Leandro said during the hearing.

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.

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. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us