With 18 votes in favor and 9 votes against, the European Union's member states have renewed the commercial license for glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.
By Laurence Banville
After over 2 years of vehement debate, the European Union has renewed the commercial license for glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling herbicide Roundup. On December 12, 2017, officials at the European Commission announced that glyphosate's license would be renewed for another 5 years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
EU Passes Glyphosate License RenewalThe Commission's decision comes less than a month after the European Union's 28 member nations failed to reach a consensus on the chemical's status. As Reuters reports, 14 countries on November 8, 2017 voted to renew glyphosate's commercial license, while 9 nations voted against the measure. The remaining 5 countries abstained from the vote, leaving the Union without the "qualified majority" required to push through the Commission's proposal.
A subsequent vote, held on November 27, garnered 18 votes in favor of glyphosate, 9 against and only 1 abstention. That was enough to break the deadlock and win glyphosate another 5 years throughout the European Union.
328,000 EU Citizens Support Glyphosate BanIn a press release published on the organization's website, the European Commission acknowledged the concerns of public safety advocates, noting a European Citizens' Initiative titled "Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides."
The petition called on the Commission "to propose to member states a ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use." As of March 8, 2017, it had gained support from over 328,000 people. The Commission says it will dedicate itself to making "the process to authorise, restrict or ban the use of pesticides more transparent in the future."
"The Commission today adopted a renewal of the approval of glyphosate for 5 years," the European Commission wrote. "While 15 years is the period that the Commission usually proposes for authorisations when all approval criteria are met, glyphosate is no routine case."
Roundup Lawsuits Filed In Federal CourtGlyphosate is the world's most widely-used weedkiller, serving as the backbone for much of the globe's agriculture. Farmers have been spraying their crops with glyphosate for over 4 decades now, but a rash of recent studies, along with thousands of personal injury lawsuits, link the chemical to several forms of cancer, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
IARC Says Glyphosate "Probably" Causes LymphomaThe controversy reached a fever-pitch in 2015, when a bureau within the World Health Organization, the Internal Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), deemed glyphosate "probably carcinogenic." The organization's conclusion, buttressed by the fact that most experts consider IARC a world-leader in our understanding of cancer, seemed to support the claims made in thousands of product liability lawsuits.
In their complaints, farmers, nursery workers and home gardeners claim that years of using Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of immune system cancer.
Cancer Link Shakes Up National PoliticsAt the same time, a number of the world's regulatory agencies began to question glyphosate's safety. Most notable among these dissenters was the French government, which quickly moved to limit the sales of Roundup at garden centers. Sri Lanka followed suit, banning all glyphosate-containing products from both commercial and private applications.
Meanwhile, member nations of the European Union became locked in a bitter debate about the long-term fate of Roundup within their countries. The herbicide's key ingredient, glyphosate, came up for a routine re-evaluation soon after IARC's damning report was published.
4 nations, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands, raised sharp opposition to the idea of renewing glyphosate's commercial license, an authorization necessary for the sale of products within the EU. Then, a report from the European Chemical Agency in March 2017 refused to classify the chemical as a carcinogen.
France Will Still Ban RoundupDespite the European Commission's approval of a new 5-year license for glyphosate, French President Emmanuel Macron is maintaining his stance against the chemical. A full ban on glyphosate-containing products in France is expected within the next 3 years.
California Fights Agrobusiness GroupsPressure has been growing against Monsanto in the United States, too. In July 2017, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment slapped a cancer warning on glyphosate-containing products. The labeling requirement, which has faced vigorous opposition from agricultural lobbyists, could even extend to food products made with crops that were treated with Roundup. This November, the Los Angeles Times reports, an alliance of agricultural groups filed suit against California, hoping to prevent what the industry representatives consider a "false and misleading" warning from going into effect.
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