November 9, 2017
By Stephen Gardner
Monsanto, DowDuPont and other companies that use glyphosate in their pesticide formulations were left frustrated Nov. 9 as the European Union once again failed to make a decision on reauthorizing the chemical.
The current 15-year authorization to let farmers continue to use glyphosate in the 28-nation EU expires Dec. 15—but a sufficiently large bloc of countries opposed a compromise five-year reauthorization in a regulatory committee vote Nov. 9, meaning the decision will be kicked to another committee meeting before the end of November.
Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide and is the active ingredient in products such as Monsanto Co.'s Roundup and DowDuPont Inc.'s Durango DMA. However, the substance has been dogged by accusations about its health effects, in particular after the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer said in 2015 it is “probably carcinogenic.”
That finding has since been contradicted by the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency, but some EU countries including—France and Italy—believe the substance should be phased out.
In the Nov. 9 regulatory committee vote, representatives from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta voted against the proposed five-year reauthorization of glyphosate. Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Romania abstained from the vote, and the remaining 14 EU countries voted in favor of the reauthorization.
Under EU qualified majority rules, the vote was considered to have delivered “no opinion” on the reauthorization of glyphosate.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it would now refer the matter to an appeals committee of EU country representatives. Should that committee also deliver a no-opinion vote, the decision on whether or not to reauthorize glyphosate would fall to the commission.
Previously in such circumstances, the commission has approved authorizations on the back of positive opinions from the European Food Safety Authority. However, commission spokeswoman Anca Paduraru said Nov. 9 it would “take it step by step” and would await the outcome of the appeals committee meeting.
Paduraru said the appeals committee would be convened “by the end of November.”
A spokesman for Monsanto, who asked not to be identified citing company policy, referred a request for comment to the European Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers.
It’s “disappointing there is still no clear decision,” Graeme Taylor, public affairs director for the European Crop Protection Association, told Bloomberg Environment. Glyphosate should be reauthorized in the EU for 15 years on the basis of the positive opinion of the European Food Safety Authority, he said.
Carole Dieschbourg, environment minister for Luxembourg, which opposes the reauthorization of glyphosate, said in a Twitter message that the no-opinion vote was a “good outcome for our health and environment.”
Franziska Achterberg, food policy director for Greenpeace EU, said in a Nov. 9 statement that the European Commission had now tried six times to broker an agreement between EU countries on the reauthorization of glyphosate, and should “ban it now, not in three, five or 10 more years.”