Commissioner confirms glyphosate license will be extended

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for health and food safety, says glyphosate will receive temporary authorization for a further 18 months.

Glyphosate license to be extended. Image: Glyphosate Task Force
Glyphosate license to be extended. Image: Glyphosate Task Force

Over recent months Andriukaitis has led the European Commission's attempts to get member states to reach an agreement on whether to extend glyphosate's license. As member states have repeatedly failed to reach a decision the European Commission has now taken the role of extending the license itself.

The commissioner told a press conference of his "huge surprise" that members did not adopt the most recent measures in the European Commission's "ambitious proposal", which included a ban on POE-tallowamine as a coformulant, and minimising use in public parks and gardens and in pre-harvest use by farmers.

He said: "We have debated this with member states many times at standing committee level and appeal committee level and bilateral discussions and once again I am surprised about the positions of some member states not to hear our proposals.

"But of course the Commission will follow our legal obligations. We know very well that we have a deadline, the 30th of June, and we will adopt extension of glyphosate [for] 18 months."

It was not clear what conditions will be placed on the temporary license. The commission must extend the license before it expires this Thursday (30 June).

The Crop Protection Association has expressed its relief that farmers will still have access to the weedkiller.

Chief executive Nick von Westenholz said: "It is disappointing that Member States have forced the Commission into this position by ignoring the science and advice of expert regulators. The indecision of Member States and the need for an extension demonstrates how politicised this process has become. Nevertheless, it will be a relief to farmers that they will be able to continue to use this crucial tool, at least in the short-term.

"Given that the extensive evaluation carried out by the relevant EU authorities, and over 40 years of robust scientific evidence has confirmed that glyphosate poses no risk to human health and that there is no cancer or endocrine disruptor risk, the standard 15 year renewal should have been granted.

"The expiration of the approval at the end of June would have had serious consequences for UK farmers who rely on glyphosate as a cornerstone of sustainable, productive agriculture. Whilst that situation has been averted for now, we urge Member States to take the sensible, science led decision to re-licence this safe, efficient and effective product for the full 15 year period once the 18 month extension has expired.

"Failure to re-license glyphosate would be contrary to the science, provide no benefit to human health, wildlife or the environment and at the same time remove one of the key tools our farmers need to produce a safe, healthy, reliable and affordable supply of food."

The NFU said: "We welcome today’s announcement that the active substance glyphosate has been re-authorised, albeit for a reduced 18 month period instead of for the expected 15-year approval.

"This is a welcome endorsement from the Commission of science-based decision-making in the EU. As Commissioner Andriukaitis said in his statement issued on 1st June, 'the EU’s authorisation procedure as regards pesticides is the strictest in the world'.  We share the sentiment voiced by the Commissioner when he said when he said EU decisions should remain based on science, not on political convenience. 

"The approval of glyphosate offers an endorsement of the scientific scrutiny from EFSA, helping to maintain the competitiveness of European agriculture,  protecting the environment and  allowing farmers to keep safe food and affordable.

"We welcome the fact that no additional conditions of use  have been  placed on the use of glyphosate – [no pre-harvest conditions are attached] something the NFU has been lobbying hard on. As Commissioner Andriukaitis also pointed out in his statement on 1st June, 2016 'it is important to clarify that once an active substance is approved – or renewed at EU level – it is then up to Member States to authorise the final products put onto their respective markets."

Conservative MEPs Anthea McIntyre (West Midlands) and Julie Girling (South West and Gibraltar) said the move to prevent the herbicide being removed from shelves from one day to the next was "sensible and responsible".

They added: "Farmers will be hugely relieved that this important tool for protecting their crops is still available to them.


"We maintain that the EU should listen to the science and not be swayed by scaremongering. We hope that these further studies confirm that glyphosate is safe for use, so we can put this discussion to rest and farmers can get on with their work.

"A ban on glyphosate could have a huge impact on farming in the UK and across Europe, so any such decision should only be taken if there is compelling scientific evidence that such drastic action is absolutely necessary.


"While everyone's attention was on the referendum result, the clock was still ticking on glyphosate - so this stay of execution is sensible and responsible. It will allow us time to examine and further test the scientific evidence to come up with a sound decision further down the line."

"Farmers will be hugely relieved that this important tool for protecting their crops is still available to them.

 Dr. Philip W. Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory and governmental affairs, said: "Today’s decision by the European Commission to temporarily extend glyphosate’s authorisation by 18 months ensures that European farmers, municipalities, gardeners and other users will continue to have access to the herbicide glyphosate while a longer-term solution to the product’s reauthorisation is found.

"European farmers, municipalities, gardeners and other users have depended on glyphosate for 40 years as a safe, efficient and cost-effective tool for weed control. Glyphosate meets or exceeds all requirements for renewal under European law and regulation. The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence and the EU’s own regulatory agencies have declared glyphosate safe for use.

"We join European farmers and other users in expressing concern over the recent rise of narrowly-focused politics of self interest, where national or partisan political imperatives take precedence over facts, scientific understanding and the interests of its citizens. Monsanto urges the European Commission to present without further undue delays a proposal for a full renewal under the regulatory framework.

"Over the coming months, we will be engaging with Member States and other stakeholders involved in this process to understand their concerns, answer their questions and share more information about glyphosate’s long history of safe use. We look forward to productive conversations about glyphosate and the vital role it will play in sustainable agriculture for many years to come."

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