European Parliament environment committee MEPs pour pressure on glyphosate

The European Commission should not renew its glyphosate authorisation, but should commission an independent review and disclose all the scientific evidence that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used to assess glyphosate, Environment Committee MEPs have said.

The European Commission should not renew the approval of the herbicide substance glyphosate on the EU market for another 15 years without any restrictions as proposed, said the Environment Committee in a resolution passed by 38 votes to six, with 18 abstentions.

"The fact that we have to resort to a parliamentary objection shows that something has gone wrong in the decision process", said MEP Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ), who drafted the motion for a resolution.

"Glyphosate has been classified as probably carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the industry claimed that the substance can be completely metabolised, it is now clear that glyphosate residues are everywhere: in the environment, in many products we consume every day, in our bodies", he added.

"Will the European Commission and EFSA publish the studies on which their proposal is based? Why propose authorising glyphosate for another 15 years, the longest period possible? We need those studies to be made public, and we should wait until we have them. Any uncertainty must be avoided before proceeding with the approval of a substance that is so broadly used. That is how precautionary principle should be applied", he said.

The non-binding resolution calls on the EU executive to table a new draft. MEPs want the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority to "immediately disclose all the scientific evidence that has been a basis for the positive classification of glyphosate and the proposed re-authorisation, given the overriding public interest in disclosure".

The EU Food and Veterinary Office should also be mandated to test and monitor glyphosate residues in foods and drinks, it adds.

The motion for a resolution, co-signed by Katerina Konecná (GUE/NGL, CZ), Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) Piernicola Pedicini (EFDD, IT), on behalf of their respective political groups, and MEPs Mark Demesmaeker (ECR, BE), Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP, FI) and Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE), will be put to a vote at the 11-14 April plenary session in Strasbourg.

National experts sitting in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (Phytopharmaceuticals Section) will vote to adopt or reject the Commission proposal by qualified majority in May. If there is no such majority, it will be up to the European Commission to decide.

Meanwhile Waitrose has dropped Roundup, as revealed by Horticulture Week this week. The supermarket told Horticulture Week the move was a commercial decision after a 90,000 signature petition supporting a ban.

Pesticides Action Network policy officer Nick Mole said: "We wrote to retailers in July and got some responses, but not from Waitrose. There are some European retailers that have stopped selling it. Waitrose's sales volume will be pretty low compared to others so I can't imagine it's a huge loss to them. But I think it does herald something. Glyphosate is in trouble. There are huge issues with glyphosate."

Crop Protection Association chief executive officer Nick von Westenholz said: "Glyphosate is a safe, efficient and effective tool used by council’s up and down the country to control weeds in public spaces and improve the condition and quality of parks, gardens and sports pitches.

"The CPA promotes an integrated approach which considers a range of methods in controlling weeds. Users should make every effort to consider alternative methods of control when available. But sometimes chemical controls will be needed, and that’s appropriate given the safety of these approved substances.

"The public should rest assured that numerous assessments conducted by public authorities over the past 40 years have consistently concluded that responsible use of glyphosate does not pose any unacceptable risk to human health or wildlife. No regulatory agency in the world has ever classified glyphosate as a human carcinogen."

In response to the EP Environment Committee vote von Westenholz added: "It is disappointing that the Environment Committee has voted against re-licensing glyphosate, ignoring the expert opinion of European regulators and seeking to restrict availability of this crucial tool for controlling a broad spectrum of weeds.

"We would urge member states to listen to the scientific advice of expert regulators and agree to relicense glyphosate. Numerous health assessments conducted by public authorities over the last 40 years have all concluded that, when used correctly, glyphosate poses no meaningful risk to human health. No regulatory agency in the world has ever classified glyphosate as a human carcinogen

"As an industry we take pride in the fact that our products are demonstrably safe. Pesticides are amongst the most heavily regulated products in Europe and it currently takes about ten years, costing over £150m to bring an active ingredient to market. It is this process, backed by effective and independent regulatory scrutiny, that ensures the public can have absolute confidence in our products."

In the House of Lords on 21 March, Countess of Mar asked whether the Government would support a further licence of 15 years for glyphosate and warned that a vote in June might not go ahead.

Baroness Chisolm of Owlpen replied that the Government supports use where scientific evidence shows it causes no harm to people or unacceptable effects on the environment, and supports EFSA's view that glyphosate does not cause cancer: "The Government therefore support the continuing approval of glyphosate. If glyphosate is approved, we will review the authorisations of glyphosate products, to ensure that they meet current standards."

She added that there is a hold-up with the licensing process as the "European Chemicals Agency is to come out with a report next year and several member states have stated that they would like to see that report before licensing glyphosate. If there is not a vote before June, glyphosate will not be licensed and it will be withdrawn over a period of time to allow manufacturers to replace it."

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