Brussels has approved the continued use of the controversial chemical substance glyphosate throughout the European Union for an additional ten years. The European Commission made this decision after member states failed to reach an agreement.
Glyphosate, a herbicide introduced in the 1970s to eliminate weeds in agricultural crops and public spaces, has been a subject of controversy since the World Health Organization’s cancer agency determined in 2015 that it was likely carcinogenic to humans.
This decision follows a July assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which found “no critical areas of concern” for extending the use of glyphosate beyond December 15, when the current five-year approval was set to expire. However, the power to employ glyphosate at the national level remains within the jurisdiction of individual governments.
The Commission emphasized in its recent announcement that the EFSA meticulously reviewed 16,000 published studies, including 2,000 considered potentially relevant, along with an additional 300 studies identified during the public consultation phase.
While no EU country has implemented a complete ban on glyphosate, some, including Austria, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, have imposed partial bans by restricting its use in specific areas or by households.
Despite the decision, the Pesticide Action Network, an NGO, contends that the Commission’s solo renewal approval violates the EU Pesticide Law, which stipulates the observation of a precautionary principle in the absence of a clear scientific consensus on policies suspected of posing risks to the public or the environment.
The Commission’s new conditions and restrictions on glyphosate use include prohibiting its use as a desiccant and requiring member states to enhance their risk assessments, considering biodiversity, including wildlife.
Governments must establish maximum application rates based on these risk assessments and implement risk mitigation measures to safeguard non-target organisms and the environment.
In a statement, the Commission noted: “The Commission, based on comprehensive safety assessments carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), together with EU Member States, will now proceed with the renewal of the approval of glyphosate for a period of 10 years, subject to certain new conditions and restrictions These restrictions include a prohibition of pre-harvest use as a desiccant and the need for certain measures to protect non-target organisms.”
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