More indecision sees weed killer decision delayed

European member states have again failed to make a decision on the future of the world's most widely used weed killer.
European member states have again failed to make a decision on the future of the world's most widely used weed killer.
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A vote on whether the world’s most widely used weed killer should continue to be used across Europe has once again ended in deadlock.

At a meeting today, EU countries failed to agree to a proposal to extend the license for active chemical ingredient glyphosate, which is relied on by farmers to rid weeds from fields before crops are planted.

The chemical has been linked to causing cancer, concerns which scientists dismissed earlier in the year when the European Chemical Agency advised that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic.

Today’s indecision by the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, follows a previous failure on October 25 to reach a consensus, despite a ten-year relicensing period proposed then having since been revised down to five years.

The current licence for glyphosate runs until December 15.

Following this morning’s vote, the Brussels office of the National Farmers’ Union tweeted: “Once again, UK farming unions are disappointed by the failure of EU MS (member states) to reach agreement on #glyphosate. Farmers need policymakers to respect science & evidence.”

Guy Smith, the NFU’s vice president, said it was maddening to see the future of glyphosate being treated like a political football, adding: “To be clear the glyphosate saga is not over. Commission Appeals committee will now consider the reauthorisation at the end of November. Why does Brussels so often like to wait until five to midnight?”

In a statement, Sarah Mukherjee, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association (CPA), said: “It is disappointing that some Member States are continuing to politicise glyphosate, publicly blocking the reauthorisation whilst privately urging the Commission to reapprove. They are ignoring the science and therefore risking the livelihoods of European farmers and the continued availability of safe, healthy, affordable food for consumers.

“We urge the Commission to now take action and grant the standard 15 year licence. Anything less undermines the work of independent, expert regulators at EFSA and ECHA who all agree glyphosate is safe. The loss of glyphosate risks significant damage to the economy, the environment and the agricultural sector in Europe.”