A last-minute move to allow farmers to continue using a common weedkiller has come as a massive relief to farmers.
The active substance glyphosate has been re-authorised by the European Commission for an 18-month period, with no additional conditions of use placed on it.
Farmers and landowners declared the decision an important victory in keeping food safe and affordable.
It comes after months of delays during which farming unions accused members of the European Parliament of political point scoring.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in Europe but European politicians had voiced health and safety concerns.
The extended license period for the ingredient is December 2017. After that time, the EU Council and Commission could still decide to ban glyphosate, depending on the findings of a report from the European Agency for Chemical Products on the health impacts of the product.
In the meantime, farmers will be able to get on with their jobs, said Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union.
“After many delays to any re-authorisation of glyphosate we’re pleased to see a positive decision has been made for agriculture. It is a welcome endorsement from the Commission of science-based decision-making.
“The approval of glyphosate offers an endorsement of the scientific scrutiny from EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority), helping to maintain the competitiveness of agriculture, protecting the environment and allowing farmers to keep food safe and affordable.”
Mr Smith added: “Echoing Commissioner Andriukaitis, it is important to clarify that once an active substance is approved – or renewed at EU level – it is then up to Member States to authorise the final products put onto their respective markets.
“I’m keen to see a science based approach free of politics and immune to the scare mongering we have clearly seen on glyphosate.”
Tim Breitmeyer, deputy president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), also expressed his pleasure at the extension on behalf of the landowner group’s members.
Mr Breitmeyer said: “Glyphosate is desperately needed by farmers across the country battling with the debilitating effects of rye and black grass.
“This extension allows for a definitive impartial view to be published before the license expires again. To remove the licence based around poor science and a precautionary principle would be counterproductive.”
Mr Breitmeyer said banning the chemical altogether would have a detrimental effect for agriculture and the environment.
“It would add significantly to the cost of food production with a significant reduction in environmentally friendly conservation tillage and the consequential loss of organic soil carbon and thus further greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“It could also mean the use of less effective but equally harmful chemicals at higher dosage rates.”