German-based natural/organic plant-protection product supplier Neudorff UK sales manager Jude Beharall says a Greenpeace report on German garden retailers selling glyphosate-based Roundup shows they are reacting to customer pressure rather than changes in the law.
Glyphosate is being re-registered in the EU with a vote set for 18-19 May. European Parliament's environment committee MEPs voted against recommending re-registration for retail use last month. Greenpeace in Germany has found that the eight largest retailers selling herbicides and pesticides have taken steps to voluntarily remove neonicotinoid and glyphosate-based products from their shelves.
Beharall said: "Yes, we are of course monitoring the glyphosate re-registration process very closely and the initial voting by MEPs seems to indicate big changes in store for the selling of glyphosate, whether it be a pack size reduction, concentration levels being reduced or even an outright ban.
"However, with the proposal still needing acceptance by the standing committee of experts from the member nations I do not think that anything is really decided yet. When the standing committee meets in May to discuss the issue we should know more either way.
He added: "In terms of increased sales, yes there has been an increase in sales of our weedkiller products in the UK on the back on the current uncertainty surrounding glyphosate. Across Europe, in Germany and France in particular, there has been a large increase in weedkiller sales driven not by legislation but by large DIY/garden retailers voluntarily removing glyphosate products from their shelves to improve their public image and corporate responsibility.
"The Greenpeace report shows how far retailers in Germany have gone in response to consumer opinion rather than having their hands forced by a change in regulation."
Greenpeace questioned megastores with garden centres about selling glyphosate-based Roundup. Dehner, Hagebau and Hellweg have not yet banned the weedkiller, though Hagebau and Hellweg are assessing whether to continue selling it.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic". But this view is not shared by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, nor the European Food Safety Authority, which found glyphosate is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans".
In April, environment committee MEPs said glyphosate should not be approved for use in or close to public parks, public playgrounds, public gardens or home use. They recommended glyphosate re-registration for a further seven years.
The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food & Feed will vote to adopt the commission proposal (that glyphosate be relicensed) by qualified majority at its meeting on 18-19 May.
Greenpeace enquiries revealed that all eight of the retailers surveyed had stopped selling pesticides that include the ingredient thiacloprid. Hellweg will take products containing it from the range by the end of the year. Of the eight retailers only Hornbach is still selling acetamiprid.
In the production of ornamental plants, all DIY and garden stores surveyed have instructed their suppliers to stop using seven "bee hazardous substances" in production.
Environmental groups' recent campaigns to ban glyphosate have been called a "witch-hunt" by Bayer's Dr Julian Little. "It's a witch-hunt on one of the safest and most environmentally friendly chemicals ever put together and is a sad indictment on the way the whole issue about the way we produce food and the lengths that they would like to see a massive increase in the price of food and much less food availability," he said. "What they are doing just doesn't make sense."
Report - Eight German retailers surveyed on sales of Roundup