EU parliament votes to re-approve glyphosate despite ‘concerns about carcinogenicity’

© Charles Platiau
The European Parliament has backed a re-authorization of a pesticide believed to be carcinogenic for another 7 years, despite a widespread protest campaign calling for a full ban instead of a downsized “compromise” deal.

The weedkiller glyphosate is to be given market approval for another seven years, instead of 15 as originally requested, while its use should be limited to professionals only, the European Parliament said in a non-binding resolution approved on Wednesday. The body also advised the chemical shouldn’t be used in public locations, such as parks and playgrounds.

Despite coming up with the approval, the resolution, passed by 374 votes to 225, with 102 abstentions, still noted “concerns about the carcinogenicity and endocrine disruptive properties of the herbicide glyphosate, used in many farm and garden applications.”

The Green Party rioting for a ban said European governments and the European Commission are obliged to take into account the concerns raised by MEPs.

“This is a shot across the bow of the Commission and it must now work with EU governments to address these concerns,” Bart Staes, spokesman for Green food safety and public health said as cited by Reuters.

The current license of the weed killer expires at the of June and the European Commission initially asked for a fifteen-year renewal. National experts from EU member states are yet to decide whether to go ahead with implementing the non-binding resolution.

“We welcome that the European Parliament has always voted for the renewal of the authorization. Due to positive safety assessments of the competent authorities, however, an extension for another 15 years should technically not pose any problems,” Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane, the spokesperson for Monsanto that uses glyphosate in its herbicide RoundUp, said after vote returns were announced.

A ban on glyphosate, the world’s most widely used agricultural herbicide, has long been demanded by environmentalists due to health concerns, including its alleged link to cancer. EU and UN scientists, such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), do not share this opinion, although last year the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) named glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Acknowledging the health concerns but noting the dependence of the EU agriculture on glyphosate, the European People’s Party Group had pushed for a “real compromise” solution prior to the parliament vote.

“The use of the plant protection product glyphosate worries European citizens, obviously, but at the same time, the agricultural sector depends highly on it and it is absolutely necessary to find solutions to replace it before totally forbidding it", said Angelique Delahaye, a French member of the EPP and the Group’s Shadow Rapporteur.

READ MORE: Monsanto-hired panel disputes WHO report on ‘carcinogenic’ herbicide

The push by the Greens and left-wing groups for a ban on glyphosate, according to Delahaye, “is only a political move that prevents us from thinking concretely on the issue.”

At the same time EPP called for the “promotion of research and innovation to find sustainable and cost-efficient alternatives to the use of glyphosate,” according to EPP spokesman in the Environment Committee, Peter Liese.

In response to the EU parliament vote, Richard Garnett, chairman of Glyphosate Task Force, a consortium of companies set to renew the European glyphosate registration, said in a statement that the herbicide was “a key tool for the control of weeds and the protection of crop yields.” He also rejected its criticism as “scaremongering” and “promotion of misinformation and unsubstantiated claims” which he believes only hampers informed debate.