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Glyphosate licence for EU renewed for 5 years in last minute vote between Member States

The licence to renew Glyphosate has been approved for 5 years following a late night vote on 27th November in the European Council that saw 19 member states (including Germany fresh from its coalition talks in Berlin) voting in favour of the licence’s renewal. France, Belgium, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta and Austria voted against.  The outcome of the vote, which was weighted by population size, was close to 2-1 in favour of renewing the European licence.  The controversial vote comes after the European Parliament held a lively public hearing last week on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides”, on 20th November. The hearing comes at a key moment as the European Commission is appealing the Member States rejection of a 5-year licence renewal for glyphosate from the 15th December 2017 when the current one expires. The hearing was organised by the Committee on Environment, Public health and Food Safety, together with the Committee on Petitions, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. It comes as a direct response to the ECI that gathered 1.3 million signatures calling for legislation to ban glyphosate, introduce mandatory pesticide reduction targets and reform EU scientific evaluation procedures for pesticides. During the hearing, the Commission representatives underlined that they would not be swayed by pressure from the agrochemical industry to re-approve glyphosate but that there is presently no legal or scientific basis for a ban of the controversial pesticide.  In the debate that followed, campaigners complained that the conclusion reached by EU agencies for chemicals (ECHA) and food safety (EFSA) that there is no cancer risk associated with glyphosate were flawed despite a WHO report to the contrary.  The European Commission representative from DG SANTE said though that there was no scientific or legal reason for a ban in the context of pesticides legislation.   A number of MEPS in the debate called for the licence renewal to be based on scientific evidence only and that the spreading of misinformation was not helping anyone. Other MEPs called upon the Commission to stand up for the precautionary principle to protect over 100 million Europeans who are exposed to the chemical.   Closing the debate, Health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis replied that he was not a man to be pressured by big industry on questions like these. He recalled how he had been arrested by the KGB in a previous life and imprisoned… making a parallel with the principle corporation behind glyphosate who he said would not sway his decision.  The Commissioner underlined that the executive would follow the rule of law and would formally respond to the citizens initiative in the months ahead.

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