EU settles dispute over major weedkiller glyphosate

EU settles dispute over major weedkiller glyphosate

EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of environmental concerns. 

The proposal at the EU Commission's Appeal Committee got 18 votes in favour and nine against, with one abstention, ending months of deadlock. 

The Commission says the new five-year licence will be ready before the current one expires on 15 December. 

However, France plans to ban the use of glyphosate within three years. 

In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said he had ordered a ban  on the use of glyphosate in France "as soon as alternatives are found, and within three years at the latest". 

Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. 

One UN study called the chemical "probably carcinogenic", but other scientists said it was safe to use. 

The UK was among the states in favour of glyphosate renewal. Germany and Poland were also among them - though they had previously abstained. 

"Professor John Moverley, independent chairman of the Amenity Forum, welcomed the decision to renew approval of glyphosate for a further five years. He said: "It is an important active ingredient used in the amenity sector and has been proved to be safe to use following extensive analysis and review. The Forum always advocates an integrated approach to weed control utilising all methods available, cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical. However glyphosate remains in many situations the most cost effective and efficient method ensuring safe, healthy and sustainable amenity spaces and sports surfaces  fit for purpose and keeping Britain moving."

France and Belgium were among the states that voted against. Portugal abstained. 

The EU Commission says the current proposal on the weedkiller "enjoys the broadest possible support by the member states while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment". 

Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers. 

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. 

Critics say widespread use of glyphosate reduces biodiversity, by killing plants that are essential for many insects and other animals. 

Some countries and regions have banned glyphosate use in public parks and gardens. Its effect on plants is non-selective, meaning it will kill most of them when applied. 

 

First published: BBC News, 27 November 2017.