The European Union has once again declined to renew its authorization of glyphosate, which likely will leave the decision in the hands of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.

On Thursday, ministers representing the EU member states voted 14-9, with five abstentions, in favor of extending the authorization to use glyphosate for five years. But under EU rules, a “qualified majority” representing 55 percent of the member states and 65 percent of the EU’s population is needed for approval.

The five-year proposal advanced by the European Commission will now go to an appeal committee, but the result will probably be the same, “as the national representatives are likely to be mostly the same people who voted on Thursday,” the Financial Times reported. That would leave the final decision up to the EC itself, which must act before the current authorization expires, on Dec. 15.

Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Hungary were among the countries voting in favor of the extension, while France, Austria, Italy and Greece were among those against it. Abstaining were Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Portugal and Romania.

Green groups cheered the result. Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg accused the EC of trying to “ram through” a new license. “If the commission continues to allow this toxic chemical to contaminate our soils, water, food and bodies, it is simply rewarding Monsanto for obscuring the dangers linked to its weedkiller. The EU needs to ban it now, not in three, five or 10 more years.”

And Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, added, “Overwhelming public pressure is paying off, with a clear lack of political support to extend the licence for glyphosate. This weedkiller locks in reckless industrial farming, damages nature and probably causes cancer. When the final decision comes around, there's only one responsible option – take it off the market immediately, and support farmers to help them get off the chemical treadmill."

On the other side of the fence, the European Crop Protection Association called it “disappointing (that) there is still no clear decision. If member states followed science, glyphosate would have been approved for 15 years already last year. The institutions need to build trust in science and the safe food we have in Europe, not break it down. Where politics wins, science loses.”

Monsanto, which makes and markets Roundup, in which glyphosate is the active ingredient, also was disappointed. But Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy, said, “One way or the other, there will be a renewal. That’s what the science calls for.”

As the issue has been debated over the past year, the proposed authorization has shrunk from 15 years, to 10, and now five.  

Partridge said that not being able to use glyphosate would hurt European farmers. “It would set agriculture back a half century,” he said, and contribute to more mechanical tillage and a corresponding increase in greenhouse gases.


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