WASHINGTON, June 1, 2016 - The European Commission is proposing to extend the authorization of glyphosate in Europe for 12 to 18 months so that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) can review its carcinogenicity.

In a statement and at a press conference, the EC’s Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that even though a majority of the 28 member states are in favor of reauthorization, “no qualified majority has been reached,” which led him to recommend temporary approval.

A qualified majority means at least 55 percent of the 28 member states, representing at least 65 percent of the European Union population.

The current authorization ends June 30. If no decision is reached by then, glyphosate use in Europe would no longer be allowed.

Andriukaitis noted that even with approval, glyphosate use can still be regulated by the member states. “The EU approval of an active substance only means that the member states can authorize plant protection products on their territory, but they are not obliged to do that,” he said.

“The member states who wish not to use glyphosate-based products have the possibility to restrict their use,” he said. “They do not need to hide behind the commission's decision.”

An EC committee will consider the compromise proposal June 6. Attempts to reauthorize glyphosate in Europe have been stalled, with backers and opponents of the weed-killer citing different studies to support their opinions. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined in March 2015 that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, but the European Food Safety Authority concluded last fall that it was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard.” Last month, the WHO found that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer risk through diet.

The Glyphosate Task Force, a consortium of chemical companies, called it “highly regrettable” that no agreement has been reached. This is despite the outcome of comprehensive scientific evaluations which clearly conclude that glyphosate poses no unacceptable risks,” the task force said in a statement.

“The proposal to extend the existing approval period in order to take account of the ECHA classification of glyphosate sets a precedent which is disproportionate in the context of the rules and procedures related to the authorization of active substances,” the task force said.

The European Parliament’s Green group said the decision to seek temporary authorization was a “back-down” and could signal “the beginning of the end” for glyphosate in Europe.

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France has already said it won’t approve its use, and Germany has been on the fence.

Andriukaitis recommended other changes to the current authorization of glyphosate: Banning of a co-formulant called POE-tallowamine from all glyphosate based products; minimizing use in public parks, public playgrounds and gardens; and minimizing the pre-harvest use of glyphosate.

Concluding his statement, Andriukaitis said, “I want to reiterate that the ball is now in the member states’ court. The commission has done its outmost to reach a suitable solution, based on sound scientific evidence.

“As a Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, I reiterate that for me (a) high level of protection of human health and the environment, as provided for by the EU legislation, is paramount. At the same time, I remained deeply convinced that our decisions should remain based on science, not on political convenience.”


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