Oct. 24, 2017 – Brussels, Belgium – – Members of European Parliament (MEPs) sent a strong message today regarding the European Commission’s proposal on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
MEPs announced their opposition to the European Commission’s proposal to renew the controversial herbicide’s license for a period of 10 years. Instead, MEPs say the EU should create a plan to phase out glyphosate, starting with a complete ban on household use followed by a ban on agricultural use when biological alternatives (i.e. “integrated pest management systems”) are established as effective.
Today’s non-binding resolution to ban glyphosate in the EU comes just a day before MEPs are scheduled to hold a plenary vote on the European Commission’s proposal for glyphosate relicensing. Last week, the EU Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) backed a similar glyphosate ban proposal.
The opposition in EU Parliament, coupled with an EU petition signed by more than 1.3 million people in favor of a glyphosate ban, is sure to add pressure to an already contentious vote. Wednesday’s plenary vote comes ahead of a separate decision by the European Commission, which will have the final say on the 10-year license for glyphosate.
The Commission’s vote will take place sometime before December 15, at which is when the current license for glyphosate will expire. Last year, the Commission could not reach a majority voting bloc either for or against relicensing, so a temporary license was granted. That may not be the case this year, as France, Italy, and Austria have publicly stated that they will vote against relicensing glyphosate.
Spain will vote in favor of relicensing glyphosate. Germany, which is currently in coalition talks, will likely abstain from voting this year, as it did last year.
Glyphosate Ban Could Change the Future of Agriculture
Since glyphosate was discovered in the 1970s, Americans have sprayed roughly 1.8 trillion tons of the chemical on agricultural crops, lawns, and gardens. The worldwide figure over the same time period is an estimated 9.4 trillion tons.
Glyphosate is so ubiquitous that residue from the herbicide has been found in a number of different foods and beverages in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, researchers recently found glyphosate in 86 percent of people sampled in regions across America. Another study of pregnant women in the Midwest found glyphosate residue in 90 percent of those who participated in the study. High levels of glyphosate are correlated to lower birth weights and premature births.
Environmentalists say that glyphosate is capable of killing large trees and can destroy biodiversity, as well as wild and semi-natural habitats. Patrick Holden, CEO of Sustainable Food Trust recently said that a ban on glyphosate “could be the beginning of the end of herbicide use in agriculture as we know it, leading to a new chapter of innovation and diversity.”
MEPs Cite ‘The Monsanto Papers’ as a Reason to Ban Glyphosate in the EU
As glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup have grown in popularity, so too has worldwide concern over the herbicide’s links to harmful side effects. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a comprehensive review on glyphosate, based on dozens of published studies. The IARC report concluded that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, and that glyphosate had a positive association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The IARC report opened the door for lawsuits against Monsanto, filed by farmers, agricultural workers, gardeners, landscapers, government workers and others who allege exposure to Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As of October 2017, more than 200 people have filed suit against Monsanto in federal court before Judge Vince Chhabria in Northern California. Over 1,000 others have filed similar lawsuits in state courts in Arizona, California, Delaware, Nebraska, Missouri, and elsewhere.
The federal litigation has unearthed hundreds of pages of documents containing internal Monsanto emails, text messages, and other memoranda that have since been dubbed, ‘The Monsanto Papers.’ Over the last few months, MEPs from across the continent have frequently cited The Monsanto Papers as the basis for a potential ban.
“The Monsanto Papers tell an alarming story of ghostwriting, scientific manipulation and the withholding of information,” says Michael Baum, managing partner of the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, which represents Roundup cancer victims in the federal case and in state court cases. According to Baum, Monsanto used the same strategies as the tobacco industry: “creating doubt, attacking people, doing ghostwriting.”
“This is a look behind the curtain,” says Baum Hedlund attorney Brent Wisner. “These documents show that Monsanto has deliberately stopped studies that look bad for them, ghostwritten literature, and engaged in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. For years, Monsanto has been telling everybody that glyphosate and Roundup are safe, because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with the U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators.”
MEPs concurred with Wisner’s assessment. An EU Parliament press release stated that the Monsanto Papers “shed doubt on the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety.”
“The EU’s authorization procedure, including the scientific evaluation of substances, should be based only on published, peer-reviewed, and independent studies commissioned by competent public authorities,” MEPs said on Tuesday. “EU agencies should be beefed up in order to allow them to work in this way.”