President capitulates to French farmers who claim no alternative to glyphosate
EXCERPT: [François Veillerette, spokesperson for the Générations Futures environmental group, said:] “This is not the way we should be making responsible environmental and health policy. We think there should be a long-term policy, even if it is difficult.” There are different methods to get rid of weeds, he said, but they need to be embraced by farmers.
Macron backs down on pledge to ban glyphosate in France
By Sarah Elzas
RFI, 25 Jan 2019
French president Emmanuel Macron says that the phasing out of glyphosate-based weed killers in France by 2021, as previously announced, will be impossible, as it would hurt the agricultural industry. Glyphosate is a weed killer which the World Health Organisation has classified as “probably” carcinogenic in humans. But farmers say there is no good alternative.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not true,” Macron said on Thursday about the government’s ability to phase out the herbicide by 1 January 2021.
In November 2017 President Macron rejected a European Commission decision to reapprove the use of glyphosate for five years. He pledged to ban the product within three years.
Speaking yesterday during a public debate in south-eastern France, Macron said that if he went ahead with that promise he “would be completely killing some sectors”.
Farmers have been pushing back, saying that three years is not enough time to find an alternative that is both economically viable and environmentally friendly.
Glyphosate is now off patent, but was originally developed by Monsanto and is the key ingredient in RoundUp, the world’s most widely used weed killer. It affects plants, fungi and bacteria, but is not immediately dangerous for birds, insects or other animals, which is why farmers have been pushing back on the ban.
Eighty percent cut by 2021
Farmers are exempt from the ban where there is no credible alternative to the pesticide. Within months of announcing the ban, Macron recognised that 10 percent of farmers would need an exemption.
Agriculture minister Didier Guillaume said that because of the number of exemptions, the phase-out will probably affect only 80 percent of current users by 2021.
The complete ban is a “political objective,” he said on French television on Friday, "If we get there faster, so much the better… If we don't, the president has always said we shouldn't leave anyone without a solution."
Victim of the yellow vests
Environmentalists see Macron’s shift as a concession to the pressure he is under due to the yellow vest protests of recent weeks.
“Today apparently the choice is being made to calm the situation and not open up a new front in a period of protest with the yellow vests,” François Veillerette, spokesperson for the Générations futures environmental group, told RFI. “This is not the way we should be making responsible environmental and health policy. We think there should be a long-term policy, even if it is difficult.”
There are different methods to get rid of weeds, he said, but they need to be embraced by farmers.