After failing to come to an agreement this past March, a committee of representatives from the 28 European Union member states met again on Thursday (19.05.2016) to vote on whether to extend the authorization of glyphosate – the most commonly used herbicide in the world – which is set to expire in the EU at the end of June.
But the committee could still not get a majority of countries for or against reauthorization.
According to EU sources, France is exerting strong pressure on other states to end the authorization, over concerns that the substance is linked to cancer. Germany’s coalition government between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU and the center-left SPD is split on the issue, and Germany has not taken a position for or against.
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Franziska Achterberg, a campaigner with Greenpeace, says she believes the delay is a signal that member states are too concerned about the substance to back reauthorization.
“This is the second time the European Commission has failed to get the backing of EU governments for the reapproval of glyphosate,” Achterberg told DW. “The commission has continued to ignore the concerns of independent scientists, politicians and European citizens,” she added.
Although the failure to reach a decision this week has given hope to environmental campaigners, it has caused great alarm in the agriculture sector – particularly because farmers have become so reliant on the product, and there are few clear substitutes available.
Teresa Babuscio, secretary general of COCERAL – a European agro-supply association – pointed out that glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world.
“Failure to reauthorize it would seriously jeopardize the supply of grains and oilseeds to the EU market, particularly vegetable protein sources for the poultry sector,” Babuscio told DW.
The primary product using glyphosate as a weed killer is Roundup, produced by American agrochemical giant Monsanto. The company is in talks with German agrochemical company Bayer over a possible merger.
But, according to reports, uncertainty over the future of one of Monsanto’s main products may be holding up these talks.