Europe Okays Controversial Weed Killer

The licence for glyphosate, an active ingredient in weed killers that the WHO classified as carcinogenic, has been renewed by the EU for a period of five years.

Dec. 7, 2017
By Isabel Putinja

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On Novem­ber 27th, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion approved a licence renewal for glyphosate, an active ingre­di­ent in many com­mon weed killers.

Eigh­teen EU states voted in favor of the licence renewal for a period of five years, with nine vot­ing against, and one absten­tion. Oppos­ing the renewal were Aus­tria, Bel­gium, Croa­tia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lux­em­bourg, and Malta.

Ger­many bowed to that cor­po­rate pres­sure, ignor­ing their own cit­i­zens and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to give the chem­i­cal indus­try an early Christ­mas present.- Luis Mor­ago, cam­paign direc­tor at Avaaz, which opposed the approval

But it was Ger­many’s vote that swayed the result in favor of the five-year renewal. With Ger­many in favor, the required thresh­old of 65 per­cent (of the EU pop­u­la­tion) was passed by a small mar­gin accord­ing to the rules of qual­i­fied major­ity.

Chris­t­ian Schmidt, Ger­many’s agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, appar­ently acted alone when he voted in favor of the motion. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel con­firmed at a press con­fer­ence that Schmidt, who is a mem­ber of her Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­tic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) party, did not take the posi­tion of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment.

Schmidt was expected to abstain on behalf of Ger­many, as he did in a pre­vi­ous vote. This caused a polit­i­cal stir in Ger­many where there are ongo­ing efforts to form a coali­tion after the elec­tions in Sep­tem­ber did not result in a major­ity gov­ern­ment. Bar­bara Hen­dricks, envi­ron­ment min­is­ter and mem­ber of the Social Demo­c­ra­tic Party (SDP), described Schmidt’s action as a breach of trust.


Civil soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions are dis­ap­pointed that the motion passed despite a peti­tion by 1.3 mil­lion Euro­pean cit­i­zens ask­ing to ban the pes­ti­cide. Mean­while, the pro­posal of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment had been to phase it out over the next five years.

In 2015, the World Health Organ­i­sa­tion’s Inter­na­tional Agency for Research on Can­cer had clas­si­fied glyphosate as prob­a­bly car­cino­genic to humans,” but other stud­ies con­tra­dict it. Accord­ing to the Euro­pean Food Safety Author­ity and the Euro­pean Chem­i­cals Agency, glyphosate is safe to use.

Mon­santo was hop­ing the licence would be renewed for 15 and not five years, and tweeted that glyphosate has ful­filled all require­ments for a full 15-year renewal.” Glyphosate is the active ingre­di­ent in Mon­san­to’s Roundup.

Copa and Cogeca, the EU farm­ers’ orga­ni­za­tion, also expressed dis­ap­point­ment that the re-approval was lim­ited to five years, as did Euro­pean Crop Pro­tec­tion, which rep­re­sents the pes­ti­cide indus­try, with its spokesper­son say­ing that orga­ni­za­tions cam­paign­ing against glyphosate rely on fear rather than sci­ence.”

Luis Mor­ago, cam­paign direc­tor at Avaaz, one of the orga­ni­za­tions who lob­bied for a ban, had this com­ment on the Eurac­tiv web­site: Mon­santo thought they’d win 15 years of glyphosate with their eyes closed but had to fight tooth and nail for five with restric­tions. Today, Ger­many bowed to that cor­po­rate pres­sure, ignor­ing their own cit­i­zens and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to give the chem­i­cal indus­try an early Christ­mas present.”

But they are not going to be able to pro­tect Mon­santo for long from the over­whelm­ing pub­lic oppo­si­tion to poi­son on our food and play­grounds.”

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