EU’s Glyphosate Vote Fails Yet Again

10.11.2017 -

For the second time in two weeks and the sixth time altogether, an EU expert panel has failed to agree on whether to extend the license of the herbicide chemical glyphosate at all or for how many years. The current license is due to expire on December 15, but according to reports there is an 18-month grace period.

The vote on Nov. 9 had been rescheduled from Oct. 25 as discussions at the meeting of the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed on that date made it obvious that a consensus would not be reached.

In the latest round, 14 countries, including Spain and the exiting UK, were in favor of the Commission’s most recent compromise proposal to extend glyphosate’s registration for five more years with a review at the end of that period. Nine EU member states, including France and Italy, were opposed. Five, including heavyweight Germany along with Poland, abstained.

The votes cast in the Standing Committee are calculated on the basis of population, and reaching a qualified majority means the proposal must be supported by countries representing at least 65% of the total EU population. The November vote translated into 37% in favor of reauthorization for five years, roughly 32% against and almost 31% abstaining, according to a tally by the New York Times.

With positions entrenched, it is not clear when the next voting round might be scheduled. The matter is likely to be referred to an appeals committee. The Commission could, however, draw up a new proposal, reducing the extension to three years as proposed by France.

The EU’s governing body has twice been forced to change its proposal for extending the active ingredient in Monsanto’s non-selective herbicide Roundup, in particular after reports that glyphosate could cause cancer gained currency. In the face of widespread opposition, its initially pursued 15-year extension gradually melted into 10 years in 2016 before further shrinking to five years in 2017.

A last-ditch effort by France on the eve of the November session to gain acceptance for a three-year extension failed to gain any traction in Brussels. The EU farmers union Copa-Cogeca was still pressing for a 15-year reapproval.

France’s proposal could turn out to be a common denominator in the end, though Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said his country is actually aiming for a phase-out after three years – a position supported by German environmental advocacy group BUND. At the same time, Hulot acknowledged that not extending glyphosate could result in higher food prices.