Fresh EU bid to renew controversial weedkiller

Thursday November 9 2017


Brussels, Belgium /AFP/. The European Union will make a fresh bid on Thursday to renew authorisation for the controversial weedkiller glyphosate, which critics say causes cancer.
With the current license set to expire December 15, it was unclear whether enough states would back a European Commission proposal to renew its licence for five years, half the 10 years it had originally proposed.
France, one of Europe's biggest users, said it would oppose the move and called for a renewal of just three years.
Monsanto, the US agro-giant that makes weedkiller Roundup, insists glyphosate meets the standards required to renew its European licence.
"I don't think the commission has a majority for a license for five years," Luxembourg's agriculture minister Fernand Etgen told the tiny duchy's newspaper Luxemburger Wort.
Luxembourg also plans to vote against a five-year renewal.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, had originally recommended approving the herbicide's use for another decade.
However, faced with growing uproar over the alleged dangers of glyphosate use, experts from the European Union's 28 member states balked last month at a renewal.
The commission then proposed reducing the timeframe from ten years to five years, with a vote by the experts scheduled for Thursday.
- Greenpeace urges ban -
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace and other critics are calling for an outright ban in Europe for glyphosate.
Activists last month handed the EU a petition signed by more than 1.3 million people backing such  move.
They point to a 2015 study by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer that concluded it was "probably carcinogenic".
France's government has said it wants to phase out the herbicide and environment minister Nicola Hulot, a celebrity green activist, said: "France's position is three years."
The European Parliament, the EU's only elected body, last month said glyphosate should be renewed only until 2022 and banned thereafter.
The European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency both say glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, in line with a 2016 review carried out by WHO experts and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
The weedkiller deadlock in the EU has dragged on since June 2016, when its previous 15-year licence expired, and an 18-month extension was granted.
Europe's main farmers union, the Copa-Cogeca, say there is no alternative but to renew the licence if the continent wants to maintain yields.
"Neither emotions nor politics should govern such important decisions," the union's secretary general Pekka Pesonen said.
If there is no vote for renewal, it will expire at the end of December. But it will still be possible to use up glyphosate stockpiles for another year.