Glyphosate renewal in Europe up in the air

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 6, 2016 - The latest effort to reauthorize glyphosate for use in Europe failed Monday when a European Commission committee could not muster a “qualified majority” to temporarily extend approval of the active ingredient used in Monsanto's Roundup.

The EC's health and food safety commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitislast week proposed a 12- to 18-month authorization to allow the European Chemicals Agency to evaluate the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. The substance's current authorization expires June 30. Previous attempts to extend the approval for 15 years had failed.

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Twenty member states voted for the latest proposal, but Malta voted against it and seven countries abstained, which left the proposal short of the “qualified majority” needed for approval, Reuters reported. The European Commission is expected to take up the issue again Tuesday, June 7.

The Glyphosate Task Force, a coalition of manufacturers who support reauthorization, lamented the “extreme politicization” of the process.

“The indecision among member states and the need for an extension are highly regrettable and a sad sign of how politically charged the glyphosate renewal process has become,” GTF Chairman Richard Garnett said in a news release.

The European Crop Protection Association also decried the lack of a decision.

This no opinion from the committee is hugely disappointing,” ECPA spokesman Graeme Taylor said in a statement. Decisions should be “based on science, not on political convenience.”

“We frequently hear politicians proclaim Europe has the safest food safety system in the world,” Taylor said. “With this decision all they do is cast doubt on that system, and create fear and confusion amongst Europe's consumers: the very people the system is designed to protect. Failure to re-approve glyphosate would have significant negative repercussions for the competitiveness of European agriculture, the environment, and the ability of farmers to produce safe and affordable food.”

The result was welcomed by the European Parliament's Greens.

“Three strikes must mean the approval of glyphosate is finally ruled out,” said Bart Staes, Green environment and food safety spokesman. In a press release, the Greens said that the latest failed attempt “means the future for glyphosate is uncertain,” with the possibility that the EC could try to force the proposal through an appeals committee.

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 “After the third failed attempt, the commission must stop continuing to try and force through the approval of glyphosate,” Staes said. “Such a move would raise major democratic concerns about the EU's decision-making process. The process of phasing out glyphosate and other toxic herbicides and pesticides from agriculture must begin now, and this means reorienting the EU's Common Agricultural Policy towards a more sustainable agricultural model.”

Scientists, the public and politicians have been arguing about the safety of glyphosate for years, but the debate heated up with the release of a report by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer in March 2015 that concluded glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Monsanto and the vast majority of the agricultural industry have sharply questioned that finding, pointing to a host of other studies that have concluded the opposite - most recently, a WHO/Food and Agriculture Organization study that found glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer through diet. 

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