Berlin, Germany – Jan. 12, 2018 – – Germany’s largest political parties announced a breakthrough today after days of extensive talks in proposing a formal coalition government. To the surprise of many, the proposed blueprint for the new government agreed to by the Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) includes a complete ban on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
Glyphosate became the subject of controversy in 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in a report that the chemical is a probable human carcinogen. The agency also found that the cancer most associated with glyphosate exposure is non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
The IARC report opened the door to lawsuits against Monsanto in the United States. Thousands of people from all over the country are now suing Monsanto in federal and state courts, alleging exposure to Roundup caused them to develop NHL. The federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) is in U.S. District Court in Northern California before Judge Vince Chhabria. State court cases are pending in California, Delaware, Missouri, Nebraska and elsewhere.
During the discovery process in the Roundup litigation, plaintiffs’ attorneys published documents containing internal Monsanto emails, text messages, studies, reports and other memoranda that have since been dubbed ‘The Monsanto Papers’. Many politicians from EU Member States have cited these documents in calls for a glyphosate ban.
Germany Proposes Ban on Glyphosate Months After Contentious EU Vote
The proposed ban on glyphosate comes only months after Germany was embroiled in scandal over its vote to relicense glyphosate throughout the European Union. Last November, the European Commission convened to vote on a proposed five-year license agreement for glyphosate. In the lead up to the vote, many assumed that Germany would abstain from voting on the proposal, as the country did in previous votes.
But in a surprising move, German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) entered a ‘yes’ vote for his country that swung the vote for the pro-glyphosate bloc of EU countries. Schmidt later told the media that he acted alone in issuing the vote without consulting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).
The unilateral vote kick-started political upheaval in Germany at a time when the CDU/CSU and SPD were about to begin talks to form the country’s new coalition government (NOTE: In Germany, the CDU and CSU are a political alliance that share a parliamentary group). German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks (SPD) issued a statement condemning Schmidt’s actions. “No one who’s interested in building trust between two partners in talks can behave like that,” said Hendricks.
Undaunted, Schmidt defended the vote by saying the license extension for glyphosate would have come about regardless, and that his actions were within his capacity as Agriculture Minister. Heading into 2018, Schmidt and others hoped that the glyphosate issue would start to die out. For the SPD, it did not.
Proposed German Glyphosate Ban a ‘Significant Gain’ for the Social Democrats (SPD)
Coalition talks favored the CDU/CSU, which is the largest parliamentary group in the Bundestag (CDU/CSU makes up 34.7 percent compared to the next largest party, SPD, which makes up 21.6 percent). Indeed, the policies outlined today favor CDU/CSU.
CDU/CSU made a clear concession with the proposed German glyphosate ban, however. Angela Merkel, Christian Schmidt and others in their respective parties are pro-glyphosate. The SPD, on the other hand, has been critical of the chemical. In fact, Barbara Hendricks wanted Germany to vote in favor of a proposed EU ban on glyphosate prior to the European Commission vote in November.
It is plausible that Schmidt’s vote at the end of last year riled the SPD enough to demand the German glyphosate ban during coalition talks.
Germany Joins Other EU Nations in Proposing Ban
The proposed German glyphosate ban is one of several among EU nations. After the European Commission’s vote last year, French president Emmanuel Macron said France will issue a ban on glyphosate “as soon as alternatives have been found, or within three years at the latest.”
France was also one of six nations to sign a letter to the European Commission last week calling for a new study to look into glyphosate alternatives. The letter, which referenced a European Citizen’s Initiative signed by over 1 million people calling for a European ban on glyphosate, called for an “exit plan” to get glyphosate out of EU agriculture.
The other countries to sign the letter included Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Malta.
Italy has also proposed a ban of glyphosate by 2020.