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This Thursday, 9th November 2017, EU ministers competent for dealing with agricultural issues in their given countries voted on the renewal of the use of glyphosate within the Union’s borders. They were gathered into the standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed which delivers opinions for the EU Commission. The decision was following a lively debate happening in the EU Parliament about a month ago to reduce the Commission’s original renewal plan from 10 years to 5 years only. During the vote, the 28 skilful ministers failed to agree on letting EU farmers keep on using this particular weedkiller. This comes amid controversies about glyphosate, which has been the object of a lot of environmental concerns lately.

Indeed, this particular chemical product has been credited by a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) study as « probably carcinogenic ». This has therefore raised preoccupations among EU consumers and Green parties’ advocators about the use of glyphosate by farmers in Europe. Franziska Achterberg, who works for the well-known Greenpeace NGO as a food policy director at the EU level, reacted to the news: “The Commission is trying to ram through a new glyphosate licence, despite massive scandals surrounding its main maker and the EU’s own risk assessment. A new licence is a new licence, regardless of its length. If the Commission continues to allow this toxic chemical to contaminate our soils, water, food and bodies, it is simply rewarding Monsanto for obscuring the dangers linked to its weedkiller. The EU needs to ban it now, not in three, five or ten more years”.

The vote did successfully gather half of the 28 European member states’ ballots, U.K. comprised, for backing up the Commission’s plan. However, as it required a 55% qualified majority of member states, the vote failed to reach the appropriate number of EU countries for the renewal to be granted. More precisely, 14 countries out of the 28 voted for the 5 years renewal proposed by the Commission and then modified by the Parliament; 9 voted against it, and 5 abstained. Thus, the licence which is currently used in Europe for this specific herbicide should expire by the end of this year, on December the 15th.

Even though environmentalists might consider this a victory, the fact that glyphosate – which has been introduced by the infamous American agrochemical company Monsanto in 1974 – could no longer be used represent an issue for EU farmers. In fact, glyphosate, despite its potentially harmful effects on health and the environment, helped agriculturists reaching higher yields. Now that it might not be employed anymore, a substitute will need to be found in order to help EU farmers out, as they undoubtedly need to be as productive as possible in a world that is constantly seeking for more foodstuff.

 

Raphaël Moncada

For further information:

BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41928007

EU Observer: https://euobserver.com/tickers/139818

Euronews: http://www.euronews.com/2017/11/09/eu-prepares-to-vote-on-glyphosate-licence-renewal

Phys.org: https://phys.org/news/2017-11-weedkiller-glyphosate-controversial.html

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