The European Commission announced Thursday that it would renew the authorization of glyphosate in the European Union for 10 years, following a vote by member states which failed to reach a majority on the fate of this controversial herbicide. In support of its decision, the European executive highlights the report of a European regulator estimating that the level of risk did not justify banning glyphosate.
The current authorization of glyphosate in the EU, renewed in 2017 for five years and then extended for another year, expires on December 15. In the absence of a majority within the 27, it was up to the Commission to decide. “The Commission, in collaboration with EU Member States, will now proceed to renew the approval of glyphosate for a period of ten years, subject to certain new conditions and restrictions,” it said in a statement. communicated.
The European executive provides some safeguards and prohibits the use of this substance for desiccation (spreading to dry a crop before harvest). Glyphosate, the active substance in several herbicides - including Roundup from Monsanto (Bayer), very widely used around the world - was classified in 2015 as a "probable carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. health.
Conversely, in July, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said it had not identified any “critical areas of concern” in humans, animals and the environment that would prevent authorization of the herbicide, while recognizing a lack of data. The German group Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, welcomed the Commission's announcement. “This new authorization allows us to continue providing farmers across the European Union with important technology for integrated weed management,” a spokesperson said.
As in a first vote on October 13, the qualified majority required to validate or reject the Commission's proposal - i.e. 15 states out of 27, representing at least 65% of the European population - was not reached on Thursday. Seven countries, including France - the EU's leading agricultural power -, Germany and Italy, abstained, according to diplomatic sources, while 17 voted for and three opposed (including Luxembourg ).
On Wednesday, French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau reiterated that a total ban on the herbicide was “not possible” at the moment due to a lack of alternative for farmers. “We must recognize that there are uses for which we are today at an impasse. We will continue to defend at European level the desire to reduce the use of glyphosate and at the same time take note of the deadlock situations in which we find ourselves,” he declared before the Senate.
For the NGOs Foodwatch and Générations futures, “this position is a betrayal, unsurprisingly, of the promise made by the President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron) in 2017”. They believe that the renewal of the authorization “once again goes against the precautionary principle while the evidence of the danger of glyphosate for humans and for the environment continues to accumulate”.
Even if the active substance is approved at EU level, each State remains responsible for authorizing products containing glyphosate, and could therefore adopt restrictions according to local specificities and potential effects on the environment, within the framework of the criteria set by Brussels.