MEPs vote for glyphosate, but with tighter rules

The European Parliament has voted to renew the market authorisation of the glyphosate herbicide active ingredient in the EU, but under new restrictions.

Concern had built over recent weeks that the active could be lost altogether, with a sustained campaign on MEPs from environmentalists. But the recommendation from MEPs is to reduce the authorisation period, restrict amateur usage and potentially prohibit its pre-harvest use to help ripen crops and facilitate harvesting.

The non-binding resolution, passed by 374 votes to 225, with 102 abstentions, calls on the European Commission to renew EU market approval for glyphosate for another 7 years, rather than the 15 years originally proposed, “given concerns about the carcinogenicity and endocrine disruptive properties of the herbicide glyphosate”.

The MEPs described the pre-harvest use of glyphosate, a practice they termed “green burndown”, as unacceptable due to fears this could lead to increased human exposure.

They agreed the Commission should not approve any non-professional uses of glyphosate, and that it should not be approved for use in or close to public parks, public playgrounds and public gardens.

The Parliament also called for the publication of all the scientific evidence that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used to assess glyphosate, plus a study into the sustainable use of herbicides containing glyphosate and an independent review of the overall toxicity and classification of glyphosate, covering its potential carcinogenicity and endocrine-disruptive properties.

The glyphosate renewal dossier now passes to the Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (Phytopharmaceuticals Section), comprised of national experts, for a vote in May. If a qualified majority cannot be reached, the decision passes to the Commission.

Speaking from Strasbourg, where the vote was held, NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “The result of this vote is very welcome news. It’s fundamental that the agricultural sector is able to use glyphosate responsibly in order to produce healthy products for the food chain, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and continue to farm sustainably.

 “We were in grave danger of the debate ignoring the impacts this would have had on farms across the UK and Europe and being hijacked by wider political motives. It’s absolutely vital that policy is led by the most up to date scientific evidence out there. I’m glad we’ve seen evidence of this today.”