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EU countries reach qualified majority to re-authorise glyphosate for next five years

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EU member states have agreed on a five-year renewal for the world's most widely used herbicide glyphosate, barely two weeks before the expiry of its current authorisation.

The outcome of the appeal committee held today (November 27), to which the matter was referred, after a ‘no decision’ at the beginning of the month, is a positive decision, a qualified majority of member states being in favour of the proposal (18 in favour, 9 against and 1 abstained).

Given that the temporary renewal for the weed-killer expires on December 15 and that the Standing Committee on Plant and Animal Food and Feed (PAFF) reached no majority on November 9, mirroring the situation at the meeting on October 25, the Commission submitted the same proposal for a five-year renewal to the appeal committee which is also composed of member states’ representatives.

“Today's vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making,” EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis stated after the vote.

Andriukaitis had repeatedly stated that that EU governments should take on their responsibilities instead of forcing the Commission to legislate on controversial matters. Appearing before the Parliament Agriculture Committee (ComAgri) on November 14, the commissioner invited MEPs to apply a “common sense approach” rather than “creating fear” on the renewal of glyphosate and dismissed the “conspiracy theories” about multinationals’ efforts to influence EU decision-making process.

The EU executive will now adopt the decision with an implementing act before the expiry of the current authorisation.

 

Reactions 

EU umbrella farm organisation Copa and Cogeca, which had campaigned for a 15-year full term renewal for glyphosate expressed its disappointment at the vote, reiterating the substance had been declared safe by scientists of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Glyphosate is vital to feed a growing population with reliable food supplies at affordable prices while reducing the need for ploughing which benefits the environment and enables farmers to apply no tillage which reduces soil erosion and keeps soil organic matters up, according to Copa and Cogeca.

“We are pleased the substance has been re-approved, however not pleased that despite overwhelming scientific evidence it is only for a period of 5 years," Graeme Taylor spokesperson for the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), affirmed.

Friends of the Earth, striking a different tone, stated that EU countries missed the opportunity to ban glyphosate completely and make European food and farming safer and more sustainable.

“Today’s approval, even if only for five years, is a missed opportunity to get rid of this risky weed-killer and start to get farmers off the chemical treadmill. Five more years of glyphosate will put our health and environment at risk, and is a major setback to more sustainable farming methods,” Adrian Bebb, from Friends of the Earth Europe said. 

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