The European Commission tried to work out a long-term license for glyphosate in 2016, but were unable to do so. Much like the current situation, the 28-member countries could not form a majority voting bloc either for or against relicensing, so an 18-month extension for glyphosate was granted. The extension will come to an end in December 2017.
France, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and Malta have stated they will take the same position in next week’s EU commission glyphosate vote if a five-year license is proposed. French officials say the country is open to a shorter term extension of three or four years in order to reach a consensus with other EU nations, according to the New York Times. This stance is in line with previous comments stating the country would like to phase out glyphosate within the next few years.
EU Parliament’s Non-Binding Resolution to Ban Glyphosate
In October, European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for glyphosate to be phased out by 2022, citing human health and environmental concerns. “To expose citizens, animals and the environment to Monsanto’s poison for 10 more years is an irresponsible act of the European Commission,” said Dutch MEP Anja Hazekamp. “Glyphosate should be taken off the market and its phase-out should begin today.”
“Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide, including in the EU,” said Malta Labour MEP Miriam Dalli, who has been deeply involved in the issue. “There are conflicting studies on the carcinogenicity and genotoxicity of the substance but the fact is that there are serious doubts on its safety.”
Many EU citizens share these concerns, as more than 1.3 million people have signed a petition demanding a full ban of glyphosate in the EU. The petition, which was officially recognized by EU Parliament, also calls for reforms to the EU pesticide approval process and binding reduction of pesticide use.
The Monsanto Papers Playing a Role in EU Commission Glyphosate Vote
Glyphosate has been the subject of controversy in Europe and around the world since the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued its report on glyphosate in 2015. The report classified the chemical as a probable human carcinogen and concluded that the cancer most associated with glyphosate exposure is non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
IARC’s classification for glyphosate was a catalyst for hundreds of lawsuits against Monsanto in the United States. As of today, more than 270 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto in U.S. District Court in San Francisco before Judge Vince Chhabria. More than 1,700 other people have filed similar claims in state courts in California, Delaware, Missouri, Nebraska, and elsewhere.
Discovery documents in the federal suit have created a stir in the U.S. and abroad. Known as ‘The Monsanto Papers,’ these documents include internal company emails, text messages and other memoranda that tell an alarming story of ghostwriting, scientific manipulation, collusion with regulatory agencies and previously undisclosed information about how the human body absorbs glyphosate.
On Oct. 11, EU Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) and Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (AGRI) held a joint hearing on the Monsanto Papers and glyphosate. During the hearing, MEPs listened to presentations by a number of experts, scientists and journalists who cover Monsanto.
Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know and the author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, concluded her presentation on the Monsanto Papers by asking, “Why would Monsanto need to go to these lengths? Why would they need to ghostwrite research papers? Set up networks of scientists? Why would they be worried about the IARC review and the ATSDR review? These are not the actions of a company that has nothing to hide. This is not how you promote a product that is actually proven safe. This is how you whitewash unfortunate and unprofitable facts. This is not by accident, but by design, and it serves Monsanto very well, but it does not seem that it serves the public interest.”
Update: EU Votes Against Relicensing Glyphosate
The European Commission was unable to reach a majority consensus among member states for renewing the license for glyphosate.
Below is a breakdown of how the EU countries voted on the proposed five-year extension for glyphosate:
Against Renewal – Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cypress, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta
In Favor of Renewal – Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
Abstained from Vote – Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Romania
What’s Next for Glyphosate in the EU?
After failing to produce a clear majority, the European Commission will now submit the same five-year license renewal proposal for glyphosate to the Appeal Committee. According to the Corporate Europe Observatory, this move is “highly irresponsible” for the following reasons:
- The Commission’s proposal does not have a majority backing. Only 37 percent of EU Member States are in favor.
- The proposal does not include any use restrictions, which goes against EU Parliament demands.
- The license renewal enables a 66 percent increase of legally allowable exposure levels.
- The proposal does not contain a credible legal mechanism of a phase-out of glyphosate, which the public (through petition) and EU Parliament have demanded.
- The door will remain open for future glyphosate license renewals.