WASHINGTON, June 22, 2016 - A decision whether to extend approval of glyphosate for continued use in Europe is coming down to the wire. 

Political representatives of the European Union’s 28 member countries will meet Friday, June 24, to vote on a proposal to extend authorization for the world’s most widely-used herbicide for 12 to 18 months, or December 2017 at the latest. The meeting of the “appeal committee” was necessary after the European Commission, the EU’s governing body, was unable to muster enough support to extend approval, which expires June 30.

After that date, absent an agreement to extend authorization, glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide products, would have to be off the shelves in six months.

The latest proposal would give glyphosate an extension of up to 18 months while the European Chemicals Agency looks at existing evidence of the product’s carcinogenicity. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that glyphosate is probably a human carcinogen.

But the European Food Safety Authority subsequently concluded the opposite, that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans. And cancer experts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached the same conclusion in a report that was posted online and then removed. 

The controversy has boiled for months in Europe, where a recent poll showed that two-thirds of the people oppose reauthorization. Right now, the tea leaves seem to be favoring the opponents, but the EC could decide on its own to extend approval. 

“If the appeals committee fails to agree to the proposal (and indications so far from France and Germany indicate this will be the case), the Commission may decide to proceed with the approval anyway . . . even if we think that would be pretty undemocratic,” said Richard More O’Ferrall, spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament. 

O’Ferrall said the EC has also proposed conditions for use of glyphosate, should its continued use be approved: “banning of the co-formulant POE-tallowamine and asking member states to pay particular attention to risks from the use in areas such as public parks.” Those conditions will be considered by an EC committee at a June 27-28 meeting.

The European Crop Protection Association said earlier this month that “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.” 

Jonas Oxgaard, a senior analyst who covers the U.S. chemicals industry for Bernstein Research in New York City, told Reuters that Monsanto’s earnings could take a $100-million hit if glyphosate could not be sold in Europe.


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