A qualified majority of EU member states has voted to renew the license for the controversial weed killer glyphosate for five years.
Following the exchange of views and the vote by the Member States’ representatives, on the Commission’s proposal for the renewal of the approval of glyphosate for five years, the outcome of the Appeal Committee was ‘positive opinion’, a qualified majority of Member States being in favour of the proposal (18 in favour, nine against and one abstained).
Commenting on the vote, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “Today’s vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making.”
Senior MEP Anthea McIntyre welcomed a last minute reprieve for the much-used weedkiller glyphosate after it was belatedly granted a fresh licence for continued use across the European Union.
The decision to grant the herbicide a licence for a further five years was reached today (Mon) by the EU Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, comprising representatives of the 28 member states, after a series of meetings this year failed reach consensus.
The approval comes just a few days before the current licence expires on December 15, which left many farmers fearing a sudden ban with drastic effects.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: “The scaremongering and indecision over this product had left farmers and growers fearing they were staring over a cliff edge, so this will be greeted with enormous relief.”
The popular agent, commonly sold to famers and gardeners under the brand name Roundup, came under suspicion after a World Health Organisation report labelled it a suspected carcinogen; but hundreds of separate, peer-reviewed studies have shown this not to be the case.
Earlier this month, a further independent and long-term study from the National Cancer Institute found no association between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Miss McIntyre, member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said: “It should never have taken this long to renew the licence and it should have been renewed for a full 15 years but the last minute reprieve and the licence for five years is welcome.
“Many farmers are making a big effort to build up the levels of organic matter in soils by using ground cover crops and “no-till” farming methods, backed up by application of glyphosate. This gives us carbon sequestration, protection from soil erosion and avoidance of water evaporation.
“A de facto ban on glyphosate would have been a shocking and unscientific backward step.
“Farmers would have had to fall back on mechanical weed control. That would mean 25 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and a significant impact on farm bird life - including skylarks, partridge, lapwing.
“For a zero Improvement in public health and safety, we would have been worsening food security, soil quality, biodiversity and climate change.”
THE NFU has said the decision to reauthorise the use of glyphosate for five years is welcome news and testament to the hard work of British farmers in lobbying MEPs over its safety and benefits.
Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the farmers across the country who have lobbied their MEPs and invited them out on to farm to see first-hand the benefits glyphosate brings, and those who have made the case for glyphosate’s reauthorisation on social media. I am convinced their efforts have helped us reach this positive outcome.
“It is good news that farmers and growers will be able to continue using glyphosate for another five years. However, the fact remains that there is absolutely no regulatory reason why it should not have been reauthorised for 15 years, as was originally proposed.
“Today’s decision will be welcomed by farmers who have watched with growing concern as what should have been a straightforward decision has become increasingly political. The NFU has repeatedly said that decisions like this must be based on science and evidence. This clearly hasn’t happened in this case.
“Independent regulatory bodies around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), have looked at all the scientific evidence and concluded glyphosate is safe to use. But their conclusions have been ignored and their credibility has been undermined.
“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.”
The move has been criticised by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, who commented: “This is a toxic decision. A majority of EU nations, including the UK are ignoring huge opposition from civil society; the almost one and a half million EU citizens who have signed a petition against glyphosate and the European Parliament who recently voted for a five-year phase out.
“This again confirms the profound influence agrichemical corporates have over our public institutions and policymakers. Governments have cracked under the intimidating pressure of Monsanto and others.
“It is time to weed out the poison from the Commission and its Agencies and root out corporate lobbyists who are having such a huge influence on EU governments. They are working against the interests of public health and environmental protection.”