European Union countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of a major workplace health and environmental controversy. The proposal at the European Commission’s Appeal Committee got 18 votes from countries in favour and nine against, with one abstention, ending months of deadlock. The UK backed the reauthorisation.
The Commission said the new five-year licence was agreed ahead of the 15 December expiry of the existing licence.
Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. Its use worldwide has risen almost 15-fold since 1996, when so-called ‘Roundup Ready’ crops, genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, were introduced.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which reviewed evidence of the cancer risks to exposed workers, concluded the chemical is “probably carcinogenic”. A counter offensive by industry group Croplife America and Monsanto, who said the IARC assessment was based on flawed science, is believed to have swayed some regulators. However, unions and environmental campaigners have accused the industry lobby of bankrolling ‘doubt science’ to defend their product.
There have also been accusations that European and other regulatory agencies have been ‘captured’ by industry, with officials having undeclared links and many key committees being dominated by scientists working for the industry.
The global food and farming union IUF, several plantation unions in Africa and environmental groups had called for a ban. Following the meeting, France announced it plans to ban the use of glyphosate within three years.