Glyphosate re-registration delayed for second time

A decision on whether or not to reapprove glyphosate for use in Europe was today postponed for the second time, following disagreement among representatives of EU governments.

A revised proposal by the European Commission to reapprove glyphosate for use in Europe for nine more years, with almost no restrictions, failed to secure the required majority among EU governments. 

Initially MEPs supported a seven year extension for glyphosate approval.

The decision was due to be taken by representatives of EU governments in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed. The proposal by the European Commission to approve glyphosate for a further nine years, with no restrictions on its use, would have to have been approved by a qualified majority of member states. 

The next meeting of the committee will take place on May 24/25 but the Commission can now either present a new proposal or propose a technical extension for a shorter timeframe.

Industry body the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF) said: "At this stage, failure to vote on the Commission’s proposal on the re-authorisation of glyphosate by Member States represents an unprecedented delay compared to the standard timeframe and applicable EU framework for the re-approval of pesticide active substances.

"The comprehensive risk assessment conducted by Germany on behalf of the 28 EU Member States and peer reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) clearly concluded that glyphosate poses no unacceptable risks. Therefore, delays of this nature which are evident during the final stages of the process simply expose an acute politicisation of the regulatory procedure."

GTF chairman Richard Garnett said: "The GTF consider this situation to be discriminatory, disproportionate and wholly unjustified. Ultimately, failure to follow the process appropriately and within a reasonable timeframe will only serve to seriously undermine the credibility of the EU legislative framework and put European agriculture at a competitive disadvantage." 

In response to further delay of a vote by the EU Member States on the renewal of glyphosate, Philip Miller, Ph.D., Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory and governmental affairs, said: "The European Union’s risk assessment on glyphosate has been one of the most thorough evaluations of an agricultural product ever conducted. The risk assessment conducted by the rapporteur member state, Germany, and reviewed by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) included more than 90,000 pages of data and 353 studies not previously reviewed by the EU. The assessment considered the best available science and found no evidence of unreasonable risk.  In addition, earlier this week, the Joint WHO/FAO Meeting on Pesticide Residues again reaffirmed that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

"Further delay in a vote by the Member States 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."

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: "Like most farmers who use glyphosate regularly, I am nothing short of exasperated as to why this key herbicide cannot simply and quickly be given the reauthorisation that has been recommended by EFSA - the appropriate EU scientific body.  Some member states in the committee are prevaricating and wasting time when they could be taking decisions based on scientific evidence.  Glyphosate is a pesticide which allows farmers to combat weeds while supporting cultivation methods that can preserve good soil structure.  There is no sense behind this delay and we look to Member States to support an evidence-based, full re-approval at the earliest possible opportunity."

The main European agricultural-lobby group, Copa-Cogeca, has urged the EU to keep glyphosate on the market, saying the herbicide is a "a key part of farmers’ tool box" and grain, wine, fruit and olive production would otherwise be "seriously threatened."

Campaign groups including Greenpeace and the Soil Association have also commented about the postponement.

Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, a member of the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee, said: "The rebellion from several EU countries to the relicensing of glyphosate and a previous vote by MEPs calling on the Commission to restrict permitted uses of the toxic herbicide shows another Europe is possible – one where we are not willing to cave in to pressure from corporations. Sadly, the UK has been absent from the list of dissenting voices. The Tories have been cheerleaders for both agribusiness and GM crops – two sides of the same coin. Corporate giant Monsanto produces both Roundup, the world’s leading glyphosate-based weed killer, and glyphosate-resistant GM crops. A marriage of convenience which seeks corporate control of food production."

"National governments have powers to ban glyphosate if they choose to and France has already indicated it will impose a ban. This is not the EU forcing glyphosate down our throats; the UK government can choose whether or not to allow the use of this toxic chemical which poses risks to both human health and biodiversity."

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