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A critical meeting has been called for the EU Plants Animals Food and Feed Committee to discuss the future of the controversial pesticide, glyphosate.
Concerns have been raised by farmers across the EU over the future of the pesticide.
A decision on its future was delayed in mid-May and the concern is that if it does not receive reauthorization by 30 June then it could be withdrawn from use with, what farmers have described as dire consequences for the agriculture sector.
The European Commission called for the EU Plants Animals Food and Feed Committee to meet on 6 June 6 to discuss a limited extension of the current authorisation of glyphosate, until the European Chemical Agency gives its scientific assessment on the substance.
The concern is that the EU’s authorisation procedure takes years of scientific assessment before an active substance is authorised – or renewed at EU level.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “Our scientific process is very stringent and relies on pooling of expertise between the European Food Safety Authority and all 28 Member States.
“We have been aiming at a solution that commands the widest possible support of the Member States. So far, even though a majority of Member States is in favour of the renewal, no qualified majority has been reached, in spite of the Commission’s efforts to accommodate requests and concerns from a number of national governments, as well as from the European Parliament (which expressed itself in favour of a seven-year renewal).
“Some Member States have been reluctant to take a position.”
The EU approval of an active substance means that the Member States can authorise plant protection products on their territory, but they are not obliged to do that.
Those states, who do not want to use glyphosate based products can restrict their use.
Commissioner Andriukaitis said “If there is no EU approval, Member States have no choice anymore: the authorisation expires on the 1 July.
“Should there be no extension, Member States would have to withdraw the authorisations for plant protection products containing glyphosate from their market.”
The Commission is preparing a second decision, reviewing the conditions of use of glyphosate.
He said that the responsibility now rests with the EU states.
However, European farmers are angry bat the procrastination and the lack of a decision.
They claim that if products containing glyphosate are removed from the market it would be disastrous for the industry.
They have warned of the huge costs to farmers and consumers if authorisation of the herbicide active substance glyphosate is not renewed for 15 years.
Guy Smith, UK farmer and member of NFU, said: “Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the EU.
“I have been using it on my arable farm for 40 years to produce quality grain used for bread-making. Pre-harvest use in particular ensures the highest quality for bread and saves money and CO2 emissions compared to drying the crop after harvest.
“Losing glyphosate would cost the UK economy alone 630 million euros annually, making us less competitive to farmers in non-EU countries who have good access to these tools”.
French farmer Christian Durlin from the FNSEA said: “Glyphosate enables me to harvest at the right time and have an optimal production to respond to high quality demand for exports and to remain competitive.
“This is particularly important in view of the increasing market volatility and extreme weather events we are experiencing these days”.
Looking at the environmental costs, Finnish arable farmer Max Schulman from MTK said: “I have been using no till – a sustainable agricultural practice – since 1992 when producing malting barley and it’s with the use of glyphosate that I am able to do this in a cost effective manner to ensure my soils are in good condition. It is an important tool together with catch crops to prevent soil erosion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
German farmer Bernhard Conzen from DBV stressed the importance of glyphosate in crop rotation to keep soils in good condition.
“It enables me to plant sugar beet in Spring directly after a catch crop and prevents soil erosion,” Mr Conzen said.
“Without it, I would need to use an extra 20-30 litres of fuel per hectare to mechanically till the land and around 15 to 18 more hours per hectare to do the same work”, he added.
EU farming organisation Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said: “Based on the unanimous mandate from all Copa & Cogeca members, we call for an extension of the approval of glyphosate for the next 15 years.
“Farmers need to have cost-effective and sustainable tools available to ensure safe, reliable and affordable food. We support EFSA’s work. EFSA gave a positive assessment on glyphosate and this should be followed.
“Therefore, we call Member States to vote in favour of this authorisation.
“Without glyphosate, farmers’ livelihoods would be threatened and food production jeopardised as no alternatives exist.”