Glyphosate approval could be cut to one year

EU experts will meet for the third time next week to try to reach agreement on whether to extend glyphosate's license.

Glyphosate is widely used in agriculture. Image: Pixabay
Glyphosate is widely used in agriculture. Image: Pixabay

The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed is made up of experts from the 28 EU member states. They must decide by qualified majority whether to adopt or reject a European Commission proposal to extend glyphosate's license before it expires on June 30.

If an agreement cannot be reached before then, manufacturers must phase out glyphosate products from the market over six months. Glyphosate is currently the world's most widely-used weedkiller.

Reuters reports that the European Commission is now proposing to renew glyphosate for one to two years. Originally the renewal was to be for 15 years, which was later cut to nine, but the standing committee still could not reach a decision. The vote is to be held on 6 June, according to Agence France-Presse. The French news agency also said the extension would be until the middle or end of 2017.

The vote has become highly politicised after a 2015 finding by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic. However a joint United Nations-World Health Organisation panel has concluded humans are not at risk of cancer from glyphosate in the diet at normal exposure levels.

Monsanto, which manufactures the glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup, has called for an end to the delay over renewing glyphosate's license.

Dr Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory and governmental affairs, said the delay "is not scientifically warranted and represents an unprecedented deviation from the EU's legislative framework".

"This delay undermines the credibility of the European regulatory process and threatens to put European farmers and the European agriculture and chemical industries at a competitive disadvantage.

"Monsanto joins with farmer groups and other European glyphosate registrants in reinforcing the strong conclusions of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and EFSA. On the basis of this scientific assessment, we urge a prompt and full renewal of glyphosate by the EU Member States."

The European Crop Protectiong Association's director of public affairs Graeme Taylor also called the delay "disappointing" but said member states should not rush to a decision on something so important.

But he added that politics was being allowed to "undermine what should be a straightforward science-based approval process".

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