Spanish Campaigners Lobby for Glyphosate Ban After EU Fails to Reach Consensus

The world’s most used herbicide was found in concentrations exceeding the legal limit in Mar Menor, spurring advocates to call for a ban in Spain.

Campaigners claim glyphosate is irreparably damaging the marine ecosystem of Mar Menor in southeastern Spain.
By Catherine Mcgeer
Mar. 7, 2024 14:56 UTC
Campaigners claim glyphosate is irreparably damaging the marine ecosystem of Mar Menor in southeastern Spain.

Environmental cam­paign­ers in Spain have called on the gov­ern­ment to ban the con­tro­ver­sial her­bi­cide glyphosate and sup­port the tran­si­tion to pes­ti­cide-free agri­cul­ture.

The Asociación Eco Ciudadana Por Un Mar Vivo (Eco-cit­i­zen Association for a Living Sea) and 150 other advo­cacy groups sent the peti­tion in the wake of a recent study, which found lev­els of glyphosate that far exceed” the legal lim­its in Mar Menor.

As long as glyphosate reaches the Mar Menor, it can­not be saved.- Caroline Rivière, Eco-cit­i­zen Association for a Living Sea

Mar Menor is a coastal lagoon in the south­east­ern Spanish autonomous com­mu­nity of Murcia.

In October 2022, researchers col­lected sam­ples from two loca­tions on the lagoon and found the glyphosate lev­els to reach 0.4 micro­grams per liter, four times above the legal limit. The find­ings of the study were pub­lished in late 2023.

See Also:Campaign Aims to Curb Misuse of Term Regenerative in Agriculture

Glyphosate, com­monly sold under Bayer’s Roundup brand, is used by olive grow­ers and in many other types of crops.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has clas­si­fied it as prob­a­bly car­cino­genic in humans,” sep­a­rate research has dis­puted this find­ing.

Meanwhile, a lit­er­a­ture review from the Soil Association, a char­ity, found that glyphosate may dam­age soil health by inter­fer­ing with the repro­duc­tion of myc­or­rhizal fungi, which improve drought tol­er­ance and help plants stave off pathogens.

According to Caroline Rivière, a spokesper­son for the Eco-cit­i­zen Association for a Living Sea, the glyphosate likely accu­mu­lated in the lagoon due to agri­cul­tural runoff from rain­fall.

We were con­vinced that glyphosate was being used exces­sively in the area due to var­i­ous indi­ca­tions, but we lacked evi­dence,” she told Olive Oil Times. This was our oppor­tu­nity to prove it.”

While the researchers could not iden­tify the source of the runoff, high-den­sity olive groves are located near the west­ern coast of the lagoon and 3.5 kilo­me­ters from the Albujón Ravine, one of the sites tested for the study.

The other sam­ple was taken from the perime­ter canal of San Pedro del Pinatar, located on the lagoon’s north­ern shore.

According to data from Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Murcia pro­duced 7,710 tons of olive oil in the 2023/24 crop year. Overall, Spain has yielded 775,320 tons in the cur­rent har­vest.

Rivière believes that the use of glyphosate is harm­ing the pop­u­la­tion of Murcia and the envi­ron­ment.

There are high rates of can­cer, mis­car­riage and autism in the region of Murcia,” Rivière said. That is why we believe, as the WHO states, that there is a real con­nec­tion between pes­ti­cides like glyphosate and ill­nesses.”

She added that this raises seri­ous con­cerns about the imme­di­ate and long-term con­se­quences for the health of those liv­ing in the region and Mar Menor’s del­i­cately bal­anced ecosys­tem.

Over time, with all the chem­i­cals used in the water­shed flow­ing into the Mar Menor, includ­ing glyphosate, the soil will become com­pletely ster­ile for crops, and extra soil farm­ing will be nec­es­sary,” Rivière said.

The marine sys­tem is an ecosys­tem in which mul­ti­ple fac­tors inter­sect, espe­cially in the case of the Mar Menor,” she added. Glyphosate is one of the main fac­tors that desta­bi­lize this sys­tem. As long as glyphosate reaches the Mar Menor, it can­not be saved. Many stud­ies world­wide demon­strate this.”

Campaigners also sent the peti­tion in response to the European Commission’s deci­sion to per­mit glyphosate’s use for ten more years after European Union mem­ber states failed to agree on a ban in September.

We knew that for polit­i­cal and eco­nomic rea­sons, the E.U. would renew the autho­riza­tion for glyphosate use,” Rivière said. The eco­nomic inter­ests of many com­pa­nies were too impor­tant for the cur­rent European econ­omy.”

Europe is an eco­nomic union, not a social or health union,” she added. Many stud­ies world­wide show that glyphosate affects marine sys­tems, includ­ing algae, plants, microor­gan­isms, mol­lusks and fish,” she added. As we empha­sized ear­lier, it affects human health.”

The deci­sion reflects ongo­ing debate among mem­ber states, with Germany and France oppos­ing glyphosate’s re-autho­riza­tion. However, Germany lifted its ban on the her­bi­cide tem­porar­ily until June 2024.

We see that we have a very long bat­tle ahead because this deci­sion will directly affect our envi­ron­ment,” Rivière said. However, if we gather enough evi­dence and exert enough social pres­sure, there is the pos­si­bil­ity of ban­ning or at least fur­ther lim­it­ing glyphosate in our area through national or local legal or polit­i­cal deci­sions.”

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