French president Emmanuel Macron has vowed to ban the use of glyphosate in France within three years.
Mr Macron announced his intention to bring forward a ban on glyphosate in his country after the EU voted to relicense the weedkiller for five years in Brussels on Tuesday (28 November).
In September, French government spokesman Christophe Castanier had announced France would phase out the weedkiller by the end of 2022.
EU rules allow France to ban the use of glyphosate despite the licence extension across the European bloc. The country has already said it will ban glyphosate for non-agricultural uses from 2019.
J’ai demandé au gouvernement de prendre les dispositions nécessaires pour que l’utilisation du glyphosate soit interdite en France dès que des alternatives auront été trouvées, et au plus tard dans 3 ans. #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 27, 2017
“I have asked the government to take the necessary measures for the use of glyphosate to be banned in France as soon as alternatives are found, and at the latest in three years. #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain,” Macron said in his tweet.
France voted against relicensing glyphosate in Tuesday’s vote amid unproven concerns over its safety record. Other countries that opposed were Belgium, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta and Austria.
But the vote was swung in favour of a qualified majority after Germany’s changed its stance and, along with the UK, voted in favour of a reauthorisation.
Mr Macron’s stance has delighted anti-GM campaigners, who are lobbying hard for a ban on glyphosate, the key active ingredient used in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
But critics argue that if France goes it alone and bans glyphosate, it could damage food trade across the single market if it is still used in food production by other member state countries.
So Macron will ban glyphosate when a replacement is found and definitely within 3 years; hardly precautionary if he thinks you can find, test and register a product in less than 3 years.
— Sally Gray (@SallyGray31) November 28, 2017
The EU’s food safety watchdogs, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency, insist glyphosate is safe.
Both have rejected the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 assessment of glyphosate, which suggested the weedkiller is a “possible human carcinogen”.
‘Macron is posturing’ – NFU
Responding to Mr Macron’s tweet, NFU vice-president Guy Smith said it “smacks of posturing rather than actually denying French farmers this key herbicide”.
“On the positive side I hope it will trigger the French farming unions to lobby more effectively on crop protection materials.
“Meanwhile we need to make sure this disregard for science doesn’t infect our government on the other side of the channel.”
Mr Smith revealed that the NFU is re-strategising its #glyphosateisvital campaign to include messages about responsible stewardship of the product by farmers.