EU “settles dispute” over controversial herbicide glyphosate

Ending “months of deadlock”, EU countries have finally voted to renew the licence of glyphosate – a widely-used weedkiller at the centre of environmental concerns – for a further five years.

The proposal at the EU Commission’s Appeal Committee got 18 votes in favour and nine against, with one abstention (Portugal).

This was the third vote this year – the last seeing nine votes against and five abstentions, which meant the continued use of the weedkiller failed to attain the required 55% approval by member states (click here).

But this week’s ‘success’ is still tinged with a certain degree of failure.

For example, France – one of the leading anti-glyphosate States – has said it will be banning the chemical compound from use on national territory within the next three years, whether or not an alternative is discovered.

President Macron has even suggested that if an alternative is discovered before the three years is up, the ban will kick in at that point.

Portugal too has already prohibited the use of glyphosate in all public spaces.

The reason: some studies link it to cancer in humans, though others vehemently refute this.

An investigation by Reuters news agency added to the controversy recently when it suggested that “significant changes” were made to findings by the World Health Organisation “between a draft of its report and the published version”.

“In each case a negative conclusion about glyphosate leading to tumours was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one. Reuters was unable to determine who made the changes”, said the agency.

The vote this week has also only extended glyphosate’s European okay for another five years – originally, the EU proposed a vote on extending its use for another 15.

As news sources have explained, glyphosate is notoriously linked to agri-giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide – even though the multinational’s patent expired almost 18 years ago.

Glyphosate is now widely used by other companies, appearing in different quantities in as many as 300 products.

Nonetheless, in America, there are more than 280 lawsuits pending against Monsanto Co. (in the US District Court in San Francisco) filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide “caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks”.

Live testimony from witnesses in this case is due to be heard in March next year, reports website USRTK (U.S. Right to Know).

Meantime, in Portugal, environmental group Quercus has “lamented” the okay, saying “sadly, the lobby for industrial and intensive agriculture continues to be the strongest. What is clear in this vote is that the majority of EU countries see business as being more important than people and the environment”.

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