Glyphosate continues to face an uncertain future in the European Union, potentially impacting North American grain exports to the EU.
The European Parliament voted in favour of banning glyphosate by 2022 on Tuesday, a day before a European Commission committee was set to vote on a proposal to re-authorize the world’s most commonly used herbicide for another 10 years.
Led by France and Italy, EU member representatives in Parliament passed a non-binding resolution to phase out glyphosate by 355 votes to 204 (with 111 abstaining.)
The Parliament’s proposal would see glyphosate removed from the market over five years, starting with a complete ban on household use, and a ban in farming “when biological alternatives (i.e. integrated pest management systems) work well for weed control.” It would be completely banned by December 15, 2022.
A day later, the Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed failed reach the required qualified majority to pass the 10-year extension, according to Politico*.
The Commission is now expected to seek a shorter renewal in the range of five to seven years.
If a decision isn’t made by December 15, 2017, the current license for glyphosate will expire, and it will need to be removed from the market within six months.
For Canada and other countries that export crops to the EU, the deauthorization of glyphosate would mean maximum residue limits (MRLs) for glyphosate would drop to the default level of 0.01mg/kg. Currently, the EU glyphosate MRLs for canola, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, sunflowers, peas and lentils are in the range of 10 to 20 mg/kg.
In June 2016, after failing to pass a 15-year renewal, the EU Commission issued an 18 month extension to allow the European Chemicals Agency to complete a study on whether the chemical should be classified as a carcinogen. Contrary to the earlier controversial World Health Organization IARC report, the agency concluded in March 2017 that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen — the same conclusion reached by the European Food Safety Agency and government agencies in other countries, including Canada.
Although the Commission has the authority to renew the license without a qualified majority committee vote, it has indicated it would rather not.
*According to Politico’s sources, Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland and the U.K. are in favour. Germany and Portugal are abstaining, while Belgium, Greece, Croatia, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Austria, Slovenia and Sweden are against.