The controversies surrounding glyphosate never end. A group of NGOs accuses the German chemical group Bayer of having omitted data as part of a criminal investigation into the risks linked to the use of the controversial herbicide, which Brussels has proposed to renew for 10 years. The Austrian environmental defense association Global 2000 confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that it had presented new evidence to the Vienna prosecutor's office against Bayer, which in 2018 bought the American Monsanto, manufacturer of the famous Roundup.
“In its application for re-authorization, Bayer improperly excluded unfavorable data or misrepresented results,” Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, biochemist at Global 2000, told AFP. According to the document filed on September 27 , the objective is “to deceive the authorities and the public about the real harmfulness” of the product. Bayer, for its part, denied having “withheld scientific studies”, ensuring that it had “always acted in a completely transparent manner”, in a reaction sent to AFP on Thursday.
The European Commission proposed in September to renew the authorization of glyphosate in the EU for ten years, under conditions. It is based on a scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) estimating that the level of risk does not justify banning this herbicide. Or Global 2000, associated with the PAN Europe network (Pesticide Action Network Europe) and the French association Générations Futures, claims that Bayer subtracted data “reporting harmful effects on the nervous system of glyphosate”, particularly in pregnant women. and young children.
Also read: Why the European Health Agency considered that glyphosate was not dangerous to health
This approach is part of an investigation opened in 2019 by the Vienna public prosecutor's office, after an initial complaint from NGOs. Faced with the announcement from Brussels, “we considered it important that decision-makers knew that the risk assessment was based on incorrect and missing data,” underlined Helmut Burtscher-Schaden.
The 27 member states will have to decide by qualified majority in a vote on October 13. Germany is calling for the abandonment of glyphosate “as long as damage to biodiversity, the basis of sustainable agriculture, cannot be excluded”. Austria will also vote against the European proposal.
On the French side, the Ministry of Agriculture believes that glyphosate, like other phytosanitary products, should be restricted to uses for which there is no alternative. “Today, we don’t know how to do without it,” Minister Marc Fesneau said again this weekend. Glyphosate, which is subject to restrictions or even bans in several countries around the world, was classified in 2015 as a “probable carcinogen” for humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. (WHO).