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The EU postponed a decision on whether to extend the approval of glyphosate

23 April, 2016
EU delays glyphosate decision amid cancer uproar.euractiv.com. March 09, 2016.The EU postponed a decision Tuesday (8 March) on whether to extend the approval of a crucial weedkiller ingredient for another 15 years amid international uproar that it may cause cancer.Glyphosate was first used in the 1970s as the active ingredient in the Monsanto herbicide Roundup and is now made generically around the world.Regulators from the 28 EU members states, in addition to the European Commission, met over two days to decide the issue, but failed to find a decisive majority to either greenlight or reject the glyphosate re-approval.Raed also, IARC: Glyphosate, probably carcinogenic to humans
The EU postponed a decision  on whether to extend the approval of glyphosate
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Tractor spraying field with insecticide.

[Aqua Mechanical/Flickr]

A Commission official who spoke under condition of anonymity told AFP that the meeting ended without a decision and that “member states’ discussions will be continued at a next meeting of the committee”.
There is time for further discussions “as the deadline for any decision on a possible re-authorisation of glyphosate is the end of June”, the source added.
The executive deeply angered activists in November after its European Food Safety Agency published a report that said the chemical was “unlikely” to cause cancer, paving the way for re-approval.
he finding by the EU agency was a major win for Monsanto, which has lobbied hard to keep glyphosate off the EU’s list of unsafe chemicals.
It also ran afoul to the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which said last year that Roundup and similar products containing glyphosate were “probably” carcinogenic.
“Despite the UK and the European Commission lining up to protect Monsanto’s interests, governments across Europe have refused to treat their people as lab-rats and approve a new licence for glyphosate,” Alice Jay, campaign director for the Avaaz activist group said after the decision was delayed.
Czech S&D MEP Pavel Poc (Česká Strana Sociálně Demokratická) called the deferment “a big victory for our group and for citizens” and called for further scrutiny.
In a blog post, Monsanto Europe firmly backed the EU’s findings as “rigorous and transparent”.
“We expect this process to move forward in the coming weeks and that a vote of member states will take place in due course,” it said.
Keeping glyphosate legal is especially important for Monsanto as it looks to expand worldwide sales of its genetically modified crops, which are specifically engineered to resist glyphosate-based products.
This allows farmers to apply the product to fields much more indiscriminately to kill weeds.
The next meeting of the committee tasked with the decision is scheduled for 18 May.

Read related: EU scientists advise higher safety limits on glyphosate weedkiller. euractiv.com. November 12, 2015. Glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which proposed higher limits on Thursday (12 November) on the amount of residue of the weedkiller deemed safe for humans to consume.

Chafer Multidrive FC applying glyphosate and podstick to oilseed rape.

[Chafer Machinery/Flickr]

The EFSA advises EU policymakers and its conclusion could pave the way for the 28-member European Union to renew approval for glyphosate, which was brought into use by Monsanto in the 1970s and is used in its top selling product Roundup as well as in many other herbicides around the world.
Environmental groups have been calling for a ban after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, said in March that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
A campaign group said that 1.4 million people had signed a petition calling on the European Union to suspend glyphosate approval pending further assessment.
The EFSA said it had carried out a thorough analysis and taken account of the IARC’s findings.
“This has been an exhaustive process — a full assessment that has taken into account a wealth of new studies and data,” said Jose Tarazona, head of the pesticides unit at the EFSA, based in Parma, Italy.
“Regarding carcinogenicity, it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic.”
Higher safety limits
The EFSA is proposing a limit on the maximum safe daily dose over a period of time, of 0.5 milligrams per kilogram (kg) of body weight. It is also proposing a new acute limit, of the same level, for a single intake of glyphosate over a short period, for instance in one meal.
The previous EU evaluation had set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 0.3 milligrams per kg of body weight per day.
The scientists say an 80-kg (180-lb) person could eat food containing a residue of 40 milligrams of glyphosate per day for the rest of their life. Monsanto said that was the equivalent of eating 400 kg (900 lbs) of fruit or vegetables a day.
EFSA scientists, who worked with experts from EU member states, said their study differed from the IARC’s in that it considered only glyphosate, whereas the IARC had assessed groups of related chemicals. They said the toxic effects could be related to reactions with other constituents.
One of the 28 EU nations, Sweden, voiced reservations, saying it “considered that the classification criteria for limited evidence of cancer in humans were fulfilled,” the EFSA said.
The EU must decide over the coming months whether to renew existing approval for glyphosate use.
>> Read: WHO findings on weed killer will not speed up EU safety review
But Greenpeace called the EFSA’s report “a whitewash”.
“EFSA has defied the world’s most authoritative cancer agency,” Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said in a statement.
Monsanto and other users of glyphosate, which is widely used by farmers, welcomed the report.
“It confirms the previous evaluations of glyphosate by regulatory authorities around the world, which have consistently concluded that the application of glyphosate poses no unacceptable risk to human health, animals or the environment,” Richard Garnett, chair of the Glyphosate Task Force, said in a statement.
The GTF brings together representatives of Monsanto and other companies.
Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio said the Commission took note of the report and that EU regulators now had until June next year to take a decision.


The Pesticide Action Network Europe, an environmental campaign group, said the EFSA opinion violated the precautionary principle. "EFSA only concludes to adverse effects in case of overwhelming evidence; in case of doubt they give the advantage of the doubt to industry instead of giving priority to the protection of human health and the environment,” said Hans Muilerman, Chemicals Officer at PAN Europe.

PAN Europe said EFSA’s work is "a copy of the German Government agency BfR’s assessment and the pesticide industry dossier compiled by the Glyphosate Task Force, hiding and misinterpreting the tumour incidences from experimental studies. This opens the road to the re-authorisation of this dangerous pesticide in the EU, which was recently classified as ‘probable human carcinogen’".

In the European Parliament, the Greens were equally dissapointed. "There is a sad predictability about EFSA’s decision to play down the risks associated with glyphosate," said Martin Häusling, the Green’s agriculture and public health spokesperson. "The finding that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans by the WHO should be leading to a global moratorium on its use. However, the industry lobby has been actively sowing seeds of doubt to maintain its products on the market, at the expense of human health. The ground for today’s EFSA opinion had already been laid by the German risk assessment authority."

"This whole saga again raises serious questions about the flawed risk assessment procedure employed by EFSA, notably as regards its reliance on industry-supplied data, which necessarily skews its findings. There is a need to reform this to reduce the potential conflict of interest. Until this is done, the Commission [should] not continue to approve substances for which there is evidence of risks to human health."


Amid growing public concern over the impact of pesticides, the European Commission in 2006 presented a ‘pesticides package’ aimed at protecting human health and the environment from their dangerous or excessive use in agriculture.

Agreement on the package was reached in December 2008. The new regulations divide the EU into three zones (north, centre, south) inside of which mutual recognition of pesticides will become the rule.

>> Read: EU reaches deal on banning toxic pesticides

However, member states will still be allowed to ban a product on the basis of specific environmental or agricultural circumstances:

  • Certain highly toxic chemicals, namely those which are genotoxic, carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction (unless their effect would in practice be negligible) including neurotoxic, immunotoxic and certain endocrine-disrupting substances, if deemed to pose a significant risk.
  • Asks member states to adopt national action plans on safer use of pesticides as well as overall usage reduction targets
  • Bans aerial crop spraying, with exceptions subject to approval by member-state authorities.
  • Asks member states to establish approporiate measures, such as buffer zones, to protect aquatic organisms.
  • Bans the use of pesticides in public places, such as parks and school grounds, or at the very minimum asks for their use to be restricted.

The European Parliament voted to seal the agreement in January 2009.


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