News, views, discussion and analysis of farming and food issues along the supply chain.
A new ruling on the use of the herbicide glyphosate will do little to calm the concerns of consumers and the farming and financial wishes of the agricultural sector.
The European Parliament has told the European Commission it should renew the EU market approval for glyphosate for just seven years instead of 15 as originally proposed.
The move was contained in a non-binding resolution, which was passed by 374 votes to 225, with 102 abstentions.
The European Parliament also told the European Commission that it should not approve any non-professional uses of glyphosate.
The Commission also has to reassess its approval of glyphosate in the light of its pending classification by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), under separate legislation.
The resolution calls on the Commission to table a new draft in order to better address the sustainable use of herbicides containing glyphosate and also to launch an independent review of the overall toxicity and classification of glyphosate, based not only on data relating to carcinogenicity but also on possible endocrine-disruptive properties.
The European Parliament took these decisions in the light of concerns about the carcinogenicity and endocrine disruptive properties of the herbicide glyphosate, used in many farm and garden applications.
The MEPs also called for an independent review and the publication of all the scientific evidence that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used to assess glyphosate.
They said they wanted 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 MEPs condemned as “unacceptable” the use of glyphosate in a farming practice known as “green burndown” – the killing of the actual crop plant prior to harvest in order to accelerate ripening and facilitate harvesting.
They said that this practice leads to increased human exposure.
And they said that glyphosate should not be approved for use in or close to public parks, public playgrounds and public gardens, they add.
Now, 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.
The UK’s National Farmers’ Union said it was pleased with the result of the European Parliament vote on glyphosate this afternoon following intense discussions on the importance of the herbicide between the NFU President and MEPs in Strasbourg and letters sent to MEPs from the farming community.
The NFU said that last minute amendments to the resolution, lobbied for by the NFU and adopted in the European Parliament, provide a clear mandate for the European Commission and member states to proceed with the re-authorisation.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “The result of this vote is very welcome news. It’s fundamental that the agricultural sector is able to use glyphosate responsibly in order to produce healthy products across the sector entering the food chain, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and continue to farm sustainably.
“We prioritised meeting with MEPs ahead of the vote in Strasbourg this week to make absolutely sure that they are aware of the importance of glyphosate for farming and adding balance to any skewed views on the issue. This work was strengthened by the many letters from farmers to their local MEPs, and I thank those who took the time to do so.
“We were in grave danger of the debate ignoring the impacts this would have had on farms across the UK and Europe and being hijacked by wider political motives. It’s absolutely vital that policy is led by the most up to date scientific evidence out there. I’m glad we’ve seen evidence of this today.”
The European farming organisation, Copa and Cogeca called on the EU Standing Committee on Plants, animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) to renew its authorisation
Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said: “The EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed its safety and we expect the EU Commission to prolong the authorisation for a further 15 years.
“We also welcome the fact that with their vote today MEPs acknowledge the need for farmers and agri-cooperatives to remain competitive in the EU at the same time as ensuring consumer safety.”
He added: “Glyphosate is widely used in herbicides in all EU Member States and an important part of farmer’s tool box due to its availability and cost-effective price. It is widely used in cereal crops as well as vineyards, fruit and olive production across Europe to help combat weeds that compete with cultivated crops.
“Without it, production would be jeopardised.
“This would be disastrous for the EU given the current agricultural crisis and the need to meet increasing world food demand.
“Chemical control is also a prerequisite for some farming practices such as no-till and minimum-tillage, helping to ensure less greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion.”
He went on to say that glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world. Not approving this active substance would therefore just be to the advantage of non-EU countries that export to the EU, as it would still be part of farmer’s tool box in these countries.