- François-Xavier Branthôme
, Press release
" ... the result of the vote is 'no opinion',"
With a deadline just weeks away, the European Union failed on 9 November to break a hardening stalemate on whether to renew the licence for the widely-used weed killer glyphosate, which critics fear causes cancer.
The European Commission said it fell short of the majority needed to renew the license for five years when it expires December 15, as only half of the 28 member states voted for its proposal. "Given that a qualified majority could not be reached ... the result of the vote is 'no opinion'," said the commission, the EU's executive and regulatory arm. The latest result was hailed by environmental campaigners: "Monsanto wanted 15 more years and they can't even get five," said Luis Morago, Avaaz campaign director.
The European Commission, which had originally recommended approving the herbicide's use for another decade, said it will now submit its proposal to an appeals committee by the end of November.
The weed killer deadlock in the EU has dragged on since June 2016, when its previous 15-year licence expired, and an 18-month extension was granted. Yesterday's vote failed to pass when experts from nine countries, including France, Belgium and Italy opposed renewal and experts from another five countries abstained. Fourteen states voted for the proposal, including Denmark, Britain and the Netherlands, the commission said.
The European Parliament, the EU's only elected body, last month said glyphosate should be renewed only until 2022 and banned thereafter. However, faced with growing uproar over the alleged dangers of glyphosate use, EU states balked last month at a renewal and the commission then proposed reducing the timeframe from ten years to five years.
Activists point to a 2015 study by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer that concluded it was "probably carcinogenic". But the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency both say glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, in line with a 2016 review carried out by WHO experts and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Monsanto insists glyphosate meets the standards required to renew its European licence.
Europe's main farmers union, the Copa-Cogeca, said before the vote there is no alternative but to renew the licence if the continent wants to maintain yields.