Austria waits for EU approval to ban glyphosate

The battle over controversial weed killer glyphosate has been a long one for the EU. And now, Austria is set to become the first European country to ban it altogether, having completed the single market notification procedure last week.

Austria approved the ban earlier this year in July, making it the first country in the EU to do so. However, the government has warned that there could be legal clashes with the European Parliament is the ban in implemented and it’s not clear whether it will become effective next month, as planned.

The EU renewed its glyphosate licence for another five years in December 2017, despite controversy. There have been mixed reports on its safety, with some tests showing it is safe to use as a weed killer, and others suggesting that it could cause cancer.

For example, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved it as being safe, saying it was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet” – a view echoed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

However, an assessment in 2015 by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) concluded that it was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Since then, glyphosate’s manufacturer Bayer has faced over 42,700 compensation claims in the US.

According to a note sent to the AFP, the European Commission hasn’t formally vetoed the ban. It did, however, send a letter criticising the way it had been introduced. Supporters of it have since pointed out that the EU hasn’t actually taken any steps to block it altogether.

Environmental organisation Greenpeace said that have only been “only two comments about the plan from the European Commission and Italy, but no detailed opinions” and that  “the glyphosate ban can, therefore, enter into force on January 1, 2020, as planned (in the bill)”.

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