You may have missed news of the EU glyphosate vote because it happened the same week as Brexit, which owned the news cycle for a few days. While the EU glyphosate vote lacked the fireworks that many expected, the fallout from it will no doubt be felt for at least the next 18 months.
What is the EU Glyphosate Vote?
Last week, the EU Commission held another vote to decide whether or not to extend the license for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup weed killer. This was to be the last vote before the EU glyphosate license was set to expire on June 30. Previous votes had failed to produce a majority for the renewal for or against it.
A vote against the renewal: member countries would have to withdraw authorizations for glyphosate herbicide. A vote for the renewal: glyphosate herbicide would be permitted to stay on the market in the EU for a period of 15 years.
The EU’s 28 member countries were at times bitterly divided on the subject of glyphosate. Going into the EU glyphosate vote, a number of countries had already said they would not be voting to renew the glyphosate license over health concerns. The Environment Minister of France, for example, stated prior to the EU glyphosate vote that her country would not be supporting the renewal. Italy also said it was against issuing a new license for glyphosate.
Despite lacking a qualified majority for or against renewing the license for glyphosate, the EU Commission extended the license for 18 months, pending further study on glyphosate safety. The EU’s executive body ended up with the final say on the glyphosate renewal as a result of the voting deadlock.
With the vote to extend the license, experts from the member countries were able to set new requirements for the use of glyphosate herbicide, including scrutiny of preharvest use and minimizing glyphosate use in public spaces such as parks and playgrounds.
Glyphosate and Cancer
Last year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) found glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen. Research has shown that Monsanto has long known that its blockbuster herbicide Roundup is carcinogenic, but buried the health risks as Roundup weed killer sales in the United States, the EU and around the world began to skyrocket.
Outraged by this deception, farmers, agricultural workers, and their families in the U.S. are making the decision to file a Monsanto Roundup lawsuit, claiming the herbicide caused them to develop cancer.
You might be wondering, ‘If glyphosate is linked to cancer, why was it ever authorized in the EU in the first place?’ When glyphosate was first authorized in 2002 for a term of 15 years, the evidence presented in the approval process were studies that were funded by the pesticide industry, according to PermaCulture. Many of these studies were unpublished.
The initial approval process also only considered studies on glyphosate by itself, not in conjunction with other chemicals found in the Monsanto Roundup weed killer. A number of studies have found that these other chemicals used in Roundup may increase the toxicity of glyphosate.
Lastly, when glyphosate was initially approved, the process did not examine whether or not the herbicide could disrupt human hormone and reproductive systems. According to PermaCulture, the rates of birth defect and miscarriage have increased in areas of South America where fields are sprayed with glyphosate.
How Do Europeans Themselves Feel About Glyphosate?
According to a poll published in The Guardian, about two-thirds of Europeans support a ban on glyphosate (the poll was conducted before England voted to leave the EU). The idea of banning the herbicide was supported by 75 percent of the Italians polled, 70 percent of Germans, 60 percent of French, and 56 percent of Brits. More than 7,000 people participated in the survey.
To recap, despite the lack of a majority in the EU Commission, and despite the fact that Europeans by-in-large do not want glyphosate used in their countries, the herbicide will continue in use for the next year and a half. While there is a silver lining in that, the glyphosate renewal will last for 18 months as opposed to 15 years, many environmental and food safety advocates feel that their voices have not been heard.
“This decision by the commission to extend the approval of glyphosate in spite of last week’s vote shows a disdain for the opposition by the public and EU governments to this controversial toxic herbicide,” said Bart Staes, a Green Party member of the European Parliament. Staes added that this being the EU’s first serious decision in the wake of Brexit, it shows that the commission isn’t learning that it finally needs to start listening to its citizens again.
“The temporary extension must be the beginning of the end for glyphosate; we would now urge EU governments and regions to exercise their rights to impose significant restrictions on its use, so we can begin the process of phasing-out glyphosate.”