EU Extends Glyphosate License for Five Years

28.11.2017 -

On its seventh try, the EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed at a meeting on Nov. 27 agreed to extend the license of the herbicide chemical glyphosate for five more years.

With 18 countries in favor, nine against and one abstaining, the expert panel gave the narrowest “positive opinion” possible under EU rules. Extending the registration required that 16 member states representing 65% of the EU population vote affirmatively. The 18 positive votes translate into an approval ratio of 65.7%.

According to reports, the favorable vote came after a heated, and oft repeated, debate over whether glyphosate is a carcinogen. Earlier this month 1.3 million EU citizens signed a petition calling for a ban of the chemical on grounds it is a health hazard.

The existing license had been due to expire on Dec. 15. The now extended registration allows the sale of the active ingredient in Monsanto’s off-patent Roundup herbicide for a further five years in all EU countries that want to. No member state is obliged to allow its sale or use.

After abstaining in most of the preceding rounds, Germany cast the deciding vote accepting the European Commission’s compromise proposal. The EU governing body had initially sought a 10-year extension, later reducing it to seven years.

As a more radical compromise, France had proposed a three-year extension. Following the Monday vote, the French government said it would not extend glyphosate’s registration for its territory beyond three years. Poland, Bulgaria and Romania also said three years would be the limit.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert told international media that her country would push to change farming practices that embrace alternatives to glyphosate.

Germany’s affirmative vote came as somewhat of a surprise. Due to differing views within the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the country’s representative had abstained from voting in several rounds. In the two previous autumn rounds that followed German elections in September, the caretaker government also had abstained.

After the breakdown of coalition government talks, a vacuum persists, but some observers said they thought Germany wanted to give the impression that it was not politically paralyzed.

Following the approval, the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace commented that, “people who are supposed to protect us from dangerous pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them.”

By contrast, the farmers’ association Copa-Cogeca welcomed the long-delayed decision, but said it regretted that the license had been renewed for 15 years, given “strong scientific evidence” that it is safe.