The EU has narrowly voted to renew the licence of glyphosate for another five years after Germany backed the European Commission’s (EC) proposal against the wishes of France.
After months of indecisive votes among the 28 member states, Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to form a new coalition after a September election, came off the fence after abstaining in previous meetings, Reuters reported.
The EC said that 18 countries had backed its proposal to renew the chemical’s licence. Nine countries were against and one abstained, giving a “positive opinion” by the narrowest possible margin under rules requiring more than a simple majority.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in May on a platform of pursuing deeper EU integration alongside Germany, had wanted a shorter extension and a rapid phasing out of glyphosate.
After the vote, he said he would take all necessary measures to ban the product, originally developed by Monsanto, as soon as an alternative is available and at the latest within three years.
Copa and Cogeca is disappointed that member states only agreed to reauthorise the herbicide, which has been declared safe by EU scientists, for five years instead of 15 years.
“Although it is good news that a decision has been taken by member states to end the uncertainty facing farmers and their cooperatives, we are worried that the EU has agreed to re-authorise glyphosate for 5 years instead of the full 15 years not following our own EU risk assessment,” said Copa and Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen.
“It should have been reauthorised for 15 years after it was given a positive assessment by both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It is vital not only to feed a growing population with reliable food supplies at affordable prices. But also it reduces the need for ploughing which benefits the environment and enables farmers to apply no tillage which reduces soil erosion and keeps soil organic matters up.
“Without it, our food supplies will be put at risk as there are currently no alternatives on the market. We have very high standards in the EU which consumers need to be better informed of.”
Meanwhile the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales also welcomes the re-authorisation and is pleased the UK was among 18 member states that voted in favour, following months of lobbying.
“I would like to pay tribute to the farmers across the country who have lobbied their MEPs and invited them out onto farms 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,” said Guy Smith, NFU vice president.
“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.
“The 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.”
Spearheaded by NFU members, farmers and growers across the country rallied behind the #glyphosateisvital hashtag on social media to make the case for glyphosate’s reauthorisation by highlighting its safety and environmental benefits and showcasing the important role it played on their farms.