EU panel adjourns without voting to relicense glyphosate

By Stephen Davies

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WASHINGTON, March 8, 2016 - Concerns about the toxicity of glyphosate and its formulations have delayed a decision on reauthorization by European officials.

A closed-door meeting of the European Commission's Standing Plant Animal Food and Feed (PAFF) Committee ended without a vote to grant glyphosate a license for use in the EU's 28 member states. Published reports prior to the meeting seemed to indicate smooth sailing for the controversial herbicide, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.

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But France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy all opposed an effort to relicense the herbicide for use for the next 15 years, The Guardian reported.

The current authorization expires at the end of June. The PAFF committee meets again in May, but the issue could be raised before then, a European Commission source said. The EC is the executive arm of the EU.

The Netherlands “is calling for the relicensing to be put on hold until after a separate evaluation of glyphosate's toxicity next year,” The Guardian reported.

The EC source said that one concern countries have is the “co-formulants” used to make glyphosate more effective. The Guardian reported that the commission could single out one or more of those substances for prohibition.

The EC source mentioned polyethoxylated tallow amines in particular. Also known as POEA, tallow amines are used in some glyphosate formulations and have “known toxic effects on aquatic organisms,” the U.S. Geological Survey says. Glyphosate makers and distributors disagree, arguing that the surfactants dissipate rapidly and thus are unlikely to have much effect on aquatic life.

A likely contributor to the concerns of some EU member states is the conclusion reached a year ago by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

The European Food Safety Authority, however, gave glyphosate a clean bill of health and has responded to criticisms of its work by one member of the IARC panel.

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Monsanto Europe did not appear too worried about the delay.

“It is common for the Standing Committee to have an exchange of views at one - or even more than one - meeting and then to vote on the renewal of an active substance at a subsequent meeting. This allows Member States to have a robust discussion. In fact, it would have been somewhat unusual for the Standing Committee to vote during the first meeting at which glyphosate was on the agenda for an exchange of views and possible vote,” the company said.

We expect this process to move forward in the coming weeks and that a vote of Member States will take place in due course,” the company said.

The European Glyphosate Task Force also issued a statement, similar to the one posted by Monsanto Europe.

 

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