EU proposes five-year glyphosate renewal

The European Commission (EC) has proposed extending the licence for glyphosate for five years after its initial plan for a 10-year renewal failed to attract enough support.

EU member states failed to vote on the licence renewal during a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (25 October) amid unproven concerns the chemical may be carcinogenic. The licence is due to run out on 15 December.

In a statement, the EC said it had submitted to the 28 member states a renewal of the approval of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, for five years.

See also: Video – farmers explain why glyphosate is vital

The vote is scheduled to take place at the next EU standing committee meeting on plants, animals, food and feed, to be held in Brussels on 9 November. 

It is understood France and Italy may be willing to vote in favour of a five-year renewal after both countries indicated they would oppose a 10-year reauthorisation.

The UK was among the 16 member states that indicated they would vote in favour of a 10-year renewal. Defra secretary Michael Gove has suggested the UK would try everything to keep glyphosate in the grower’s toolbox.

Political standoff

On Tuesday (24 October), the European Parliament backed a full ban on glyphosate-based herbicides and it recommended immediate restrictions on the active ingredient, after passing a non-binding resolution which opposed the commission’s stance.

This is despite the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) and the European Chemicals Agency agreeing glyphosate is safe when used according to the label.

Guy Smith, NFU vice-president, said: “I’m not sure if a five-year renewal would feel like a hollow victory or a qualified defeat.

“Either way it is alarming the Efsa advice that there are no grounds not to give glyphosate a full 15-year renewal has not been followed.

“Obviously for farmers in the UK all this is coloured by Brexit. It’s a reminder that going forward we will need to lobby Whitehall hard to make sure good science governs these decisions and not NGO scaremongering.”

‘Witches or wizards’

The European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) said it was “deeply disappointed” by the lack of a positive outcome regarding the renewal of glyphosate.

It added the impasse demonstrated that many politicians had “fundamentally lost a sensible understanding of European agriculture”.

Thierry de l’Escaille, ELO secretary-general, said: “For so many MEPs and member states to disregard scientific evidence in favour of tweets and blogs shows we may as well dunk scientists in water to see if they are witches or wizards before we believe a word they say.”