European Union reaches decision on glyphosate renewal

Fourteen out of 28 countries voted in favour of extending the licence when the European Union voted on the issue on November 9 with nine against and five abstentions.

"The decision taken today by a narrow qualified majority of member states has locked the EU into another five years of toxic agriculture", said Green member of the European Parliament Bart Staes. The UK was among 18 member states that voted in favour of reauthorisation, as was Germany which had previously abstained.

The Commission will now adopt the decision before the current authorisation expires on 15 December, as provided for in the applicable European Union legislation.

Environmentalists had hoped on an immediate ban since they claim that the weed killer, used in chemical giant Monsanto's popular Roundup herbicide, is linked to cancer.

Glyphosate has been the subject of a two-year battle between environmental groups and farmers after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2015 that it was a "probable human carcinogen".

Following the decision French President Emmanuel Macron called for government officials to establish a plan to ban glyphosate in France within three years.

Following the decision, Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that the vote showed that "when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making".

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in May on a platform of pursuing deeper European Union integration alongside Germany, had wanted a shorter extension and a rapid phasing out of glyphosate, which is a mainstay of farming across the continent.

Sarah Mukherjee, of Britain's Crop Protection Association, said in October: "Every independent scientific study into glyphosate has found it is safe for consumers, including the EU's own European Chemicals Agency and European Food Safety Authority".

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg commented: "The people who are supposed to protect us from unsafe pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them".

Banning glyphosate outright would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector, since it is so widely used.

In the latest sign of tensions in Chancellor Merkel's bid to form a government, Ms Hendricks said she "declared clearly" to Mr Schmidt that she "did not agree with an extension of the renewal of glyphosate", but he then "received another instruction than the one which was agreed between us".

  • Jon Douglas