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European Parliament News Item, 19 October 2017
Environment Committee MEPs back a full ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by December 2020 and immediate restrictions on the use of the substance.
The Environment and Public Health Committee opposes the European Commission’s proposal to renew the controversial herbicide licence for 10 years. Instead, MEPs say the EU should draw up plans for a phase-out of the substance, starting with a complete ban on household use and a ban in use for farming when biological alternatives (i.e. “integrated pest management systems”) work well for weed control.
Glyphosate should be completely banned in the EU by 15 December 2020, even with the necessary intermediate steps, MEPs say.
Concerns over scientific assessments of the substance
The EU risk assessment process of renewing the substance’s licence was mired in controversy, as the UN cancer agency on the one side and EU food safety and chemicals agencies on the other pointed to different conclusions regarding its safety.
Moreover, the release of the so-called “Monsanto Papers” (Monsanto is the owner and producer of Roundup®, of which glyphosate is the main active substance), internal documents from the company, shed doubt on the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety, say MEPs.
The EU’s authorisation procedure, including the scientific evaluation of substances, should be based only on published, peer-reviewed and independent studies commissioned by competent public authorities, MEPs say. EU agencies should be beefed up in order to allow them to work in this way.
They also reiterate that all the scientific evidence that has been the basis for the positive classification of glyphosate and the proposed re-authorisation should be disclosed, given the overriding public interest.
The non-binding resolution was approved by 39 votes to nine, with 10 abstentions.
The full House is to vote on the resolution on 24 October in Strasbourg. EU member states will vote on a Commission proposal to renew the marketing authorisation of glyphosate the following day.
A European Citizen’s initiative calling for a ban on the herbicide reached more than a million signatures in less than a year and will trigger a public hearing in Parliament in November.
Glyphosate is an active substance widely used in herbicides. Patented in the early 1970s, it was introduced to the consumer market in 1974 as a broad-spectrum herbicide and quickly became a best-seller. Since its patent expired in 2000, glyphosate has been marketed by various companies and several hundred plant protection products containing glyphosate are currently registered in Europe for use on crops.
Agriculture accounts for 76% of the use of glyphosate worldwide. It is also widely used in forestry, urban and garden applications. Its exposure is on the rise, owing to the increase in the total volume used. People are exposed to glyphosate primarily by living near sprayed areas, through home use, and through diet. Glyphosate residues have been detected in water, soil, food and drinks and non-comestible goods, as well as in the human body.