Glyphosate decision must be based on science and evidence, not politics – NFU

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The NFU today said it was disappointed that no agreement had been reached over the reauthorisation of glyphosate despite the overwhelming weight of science and evidence showing it is perfectly safe when used correctly.

Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, said: “We’re disappointed that member states failed to reach agreement on the renewal of glyphosate’s licence for ten years today, as the Commission had proposed, although we welcome the fact the UK continues to support the full reauthorisation of glyphosate. All eyes are now on the next meeting of this committee where they are likely to debate a shorter reauthorisation period.

“The overwhelming weight of science and evidence shows that glyphosate is perfectly safe when used correctly. This has been the conclusion reached by regulatory bodies around the world, including the EU’s two leading regulatory bodies – the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

“The continued politicisation of this decision damages the credibility of the EU’s regulatory bodies and undermines the regulatory process. It also has huge implications for farming in the UK and across Europe.

“Glyphosate reduces the need to use other herbicides, it helps to protect soil and cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for ploughing, and it enables farmers in this country to grow crops that help produce safe, affordable, high quality British food,” he added.

“There is no reason why glyphosate should not be reauthorised for 15 years, never mind the ten years the Commission had proposed. We would urge members states to look at the science and base their decision on the evidence – which shows there is no reason not to reauthorise glyphosate.”

Following today’s news that the EU decision on glyphosate has been delayed, Laura MacKenzie, Soil Association Head of Policy, said: “Today’s vote shows that major public health and environmental concerns around glyphosate have not been resolved, and this controversial weed killer’s days are clearly numbered. Whilst we wait for new Commission proposals, the UK Government should immediately ban spraying glyphosate in public places such as playgrounds and parks, and on food crops prior to harvest.

“Not all farmers use glyphosate - it has never been permitted in organic agriculture, and an increasing number of non-organic farmers are exploring alternative methods of managing weeds. This is partly due to recent research suggesting glyphosate could be causing significant harm to soil health and fertility. We need to build on the excellent work being done by farmers and researchers to develop alternatives to glyphosate so that farm businesses can continue to thrive if a decision is reached by EU countries to phase-out its use, whether on grounds of human health risks or environmental harm.”

Copa and Cogeca are strongly disappointed after there was no vote today in the EU Standing Committee and underlined that it is the most commonly used herbicide active substance glyphosate in the world and it has been declared safe by EU scientists. A spokesperson said its use is vital to secure our food supplies. It should not become the victim of political decisions between Member States.

Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said: “This widely used product is not only vital to feed a growing population. It is also important for our rural areas, agriculture conservation and fertile soils. Glyphosate substantially reduces the need for tillage which reduces soil erosion and keeps soil fertility and soil organic matters up. Other benefits of no-till and minimum tillage include lower fuel consumption in comparison with conventional ploughing techniques and lower release of carbon dioxide from the soil into the atmosphere”.

“It has been given a positive assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Without renewal, our affordable food supplies and agricultural conservation will be thrown into jeopardy. We urge EU decision-makers and Member States to approve it for 15 years. It shouldn’t become the victim of politics or used as a bargaining tools by Member States. There is no reason that it should not be re-authorised for the full term. Failing to renew it would break consumer trust in our Institutions and decision-makers and allow minority views to take the stage,” he concluded.