European Commission gives glyphosate a new 5-year licence


The European Commission has granted a new five-year licence for glyphosate, with Germany breaking a stalemate that would have seen the herbicide de-authorized in less than three weeks.

After falling short of the qualified majority needed for glyphosate’s renewal earlier this fall, an appeals committee approved a five-year licence on Monday, with 18 countries voting in favour, versus nine against (and one abstaining.)

Germany, whose coalition government had previously abstained from the glyphosate vote, swung the vote in favour of a new license.

“Today’s vote shows that when we all want and put effort in it, we are able to accept and to share our collective responsibility in decision making,” tweeted European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.

The EU’s previous 15-year licence for glyphosate expired in June 2016, when legislators reached a last-minute deal for an 18-month extension while the European Chemicals Agency completed a study on whether glyphosate should be classified as a carcinogen. The agency concluded in March 2017 that glyphosate should not be described as a carcinogen — the same conclusion reached by the European Food Safety Agency and government agencies in other countries, including Canada. The five-year licence approved on Monday is expected to take effect before the 18-month extension expires on December 15th.

“It is good news that farmers and growers will be able to continue using glyphosate for another five years. However, the fact remains that there is absolutely no regulatory reason why it should not have been reauthorised for 15 years, as was originally proposed,” said Guy Smith, vice president of the British National Farmers Union.

“Today’s decision will be welcomed by farmers who have watched with growing concern as what should have been a straightforward decision has become increasingly political. The NFU has repeatedly said that decisions like this must be based on science and evidence. This clearly hasn’t happened in this case.”

For Canada and other countries that export crops to the EU, the de-authorization of glyphosate would likely have resulted in maximum residue limits (MRLs) for glyphosate dropping to the default level of 0.01mg/kg. The EU’s glyphosate MRLs for canola, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, sunflowers, peas and lentils are currently in the range of 10 to 20 mg/kg.

The European Commission’s decision to grant a new licence comes a month after the European Parliament voted in favour of banning glyphosate by 2022. 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) in late October.

French President Emmanuel Macron responded to the Commission’s approval on Monday by instructing his government to move ahead on banning glyphosate within the next three years.

As for how European countries voted in the November 27th decision, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and the UK voted in favour of the new licence. Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta voted against. Portugal abstained from voting.


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