The European Commission is seeking political backing to allow unrestricted use of controversial weedkiller glyphosate by labelling the decision as temporary, warned Greenpeace
The EU Commission’s statement on its upcoming proposal on glyphosate is below (item 2). It proposes a limited 12-18 month extension of glyphosate’s approval, pending the decision of the European chemicals agency ECHA on the carcinogenic risk posed by the substance.
It recommends – yet does not require – that glyphosate use in public parks, gardens and playgrounds and use as a pre-harvest desiccant is “minimised” (not banned). But it gives the responsibility of implementing (or not) these restrictions to the EU member states.
It also recommends a ban on the co-formulant POEA. But this is pretty much achieved already in Europe, as manufacturers have been replacing it for some years. Certainly a ban will not inconvenience manufacturers much.
The Commission is paying lip service to the precautionary principle while demanding nothing that will actually reduce people’s exposure to the probable carcinogen glyphosate.
1. Commission seeks glyphosate approval by another name – Greenpeace
2. Glyphosate: Commission proposes the way forward - Statement by Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis
1. Commission seeks glyphosate approval by another name
The European Commission is seeking political backing to allow unrestricted use of controversial weedkiller glyphosate by labelling the decision as temporary, warned Greenpeace.
The Commission has scheduled a vote on an “extension” of the glyphosate licence for Monday 6 June. The Commission’s plan ignores scientific evidence that glyphosate is a probable cause of cancer and fails to limit human exposure to the herbicide, said Greenpeace.
In April, the European Parliament called for a ban on all private uses of glyphosate, as well as spraying around public parks and playgrounds. It also opposed glyphosate spraying just ahead of harvesting, and called for the immediate disclosure of all scientific evidence used by the European Food Safety Authority to back up its claim that glyphosate is unlikely to cause harm.
Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “It's good to see that the Commission is no longer pushing for a final decision based on questionable safety assurances by the EU food safety agency. But whether the licence is for 15, nine or two years doesn't change anything in the real world. The same amount of glyphosate will be sprayed in parks, playgrounds and private gardens, and in our fields, vineyards and apple groves. Glyphosate levels in our bodies won’t change either. The Commission must take on board the concerns raised by independent scientists, the European Parliament and citizens by – at the very least – applying strict restrictions to limit human exposure."
In response to the health warning by UN cancer experts, Greenpeace has called for an immediate ban on:
- amateur use in gardens and homes, where users are less likely to wear protective equipment
- use in public parks, playgrounds, roadways and railways, which entail a high risk of exposure for the public and workers
- spraying of food crops shortly before harvesting, which leads to high levels of residues
The Commission has twice failed to garner enough support from EU governments for a long-term re-approval of glyphosate.
2. Glyhosate: Commission proposes the way forward - Statement by Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis
European Commission, 1 June 2016
Ladies & gentlemen,
This morning, I debriefed my colleagues Commissioners on the state of the discussions that the Commission is having with the Member States on the Glyphosate file.
First of all, I want to stress again that the EU's authorisation procedure as regards pesticides is the strictest in the world.
It takes years of scientific assessment before an active substance is authorised – or renewed at EU level.
Our scientific process is very stringent and relies on pooling of expertise between the European Food Safety Authority and all 28 Member States.
Our proposals and decisions on glyphosate were based on the guided assessment done by EFSA and before it - German Federal institute for Risk Assessment (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung). They both concluded that Glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic.
Since last autumn, my services have been discussing with the Member States the best way forward on the renewal of glyphosate in the Expert Committee. We have been aiming at a solution that commands the widest possible support of the Member States.
So far, even though a majority of Member States is in favour of the renewal, no qualified majority has been reached, in spite of the Commission's efforts to accommodate requests and concerns from a number of national governments, as well as from the European Parliament (which expressed itself in favour of a 7-year renewal).
Some Member States have been reluctant to take a position.
I believe 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 (the herbicides and pesticides themselves) put on their respective markets.
The EU approval of an active substance only means that the Member States can authorise plant protection products on their territory, but they are not obliged to do that.
The Member States who wish not to use glyphosate based products have the possibility to restrict their use. They do not need to hide behind the Commission's decision.
However, if there is no EU approval, Member States have no choice anymore: the authorisation expires on the 1st of July. Should there be no extension, Member States would have to withdraw the authorisations for plant protection products containing glyphosate from their market.
We have now called for the Expert Committee to meet on the 6th of June to discuss the file once again and take the vote on the basis of a limited extension of the current approval, until ECHA opinion dispels the remaining doubts.
Indeed, under the EU law, the last word belongs to the ECHA (European Union's Agency for Chemical Products), this is why the Commission proposes to ask ECHA for its scientific assessment on the carcinogenicity of the glyphosate and to extend the current approval of glyphosate until it receives ECHA's opinion.
Next Monday, Member States will therefore be asked to vote on such a measure. Once again, this is a collective decision.
Going beyond these immediate measures, the Commission is preparing a second decision, reviewing the conditions of use of glyphosate. In this decision, I would like to make 3 clear recommendations to the Member States:
* Ban a co-formulant called POE-tallowamine from glyphosate based products
* Minimise the use in public parks, public playgrounds and gardens
* Minimise the pre-harvest use of glyphosate
The responsibility to introduce such type of measures belongs to the Member State, but I believe this is important to promote sustainable use of pesticides and herbicides.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the ball is now in the Member States' court.
The Commission has done its outmost to reach a suitable solution, based on sound scientific evidence.
As a Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, I reiterate that for me high level of protection of human health and the environment, as provided for by the EU legislation, is paramount. At the same time, I remained deeply convinced that our decisions should remain based on science, not on political convenience.
I look forward to a response from the Member States.