France's Prime Minister says he will fight to ban glyphosate, the lead ingredient in Roundup, ahead of a key EU vote on the chemical's commercial license.
By Laurence Banville
France is set to oppose a European Union vote on the controversial herbicide glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's market-leading weedkiller Roundup. Citing concerns over the chemical's safety, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says his country will vote against relicensing glyphosate for sale throughout the European Union.
Roundup Lawsuits Spark Global Safety ConcernsThe announcement comes as over 1,000 Roundup lawsuits make their way through federal and state courts in the United States. A wave of farmers, gardeners, landscapers and nursery workers have accused Monsanto of concealing the link between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a wing of the World Health Organization, ruled that glyphosate was a "probable" carcinogen in humans, igniting a firestorm of media coverage. A contradictory analysis was published by the European Food Safety Authority the same year, which held that glyphosate was safe for human use.
EU Report Lifted Pages From Monsanto StudyRecent reporting, however, has raised doubts about the European food regulator's conclusion. Authors at The Guardian have learned that portions of the EU's survey of medical evidence were copied word-for-word from a study conducted by Monsanto-led agrochemical lobbying group the Glyphosate Task Force. In the US, activists have long held that Monsanto enjoys considerable leverage inside the Environmental Protection Agency.
EU members are slated to vote on the glyphosate measure, which would see Roundup's commercial license extended for another ten years, by the end of 2017, Reuters reports. But the vote's date has already been pushed back several times and a failure to renew the license by January 1, 2018 would automatically trigger an EU-wide ban on glyphosate. At that point, many legal experts believe Monsanto and other agrochemical interests could attempt to force the license renewal through a legal case.
French Government Supports Full Glyphosate BanAnd even if the European Union ultimately approves glyphosate, France probably won't play ball. Prime Minister Philippe says that he has already reached out to France's farm and environment ministries to encourage a plan that would phase out the use of glyphosate-based herbicides over time. A full ban throughout the country, government representatives say, could come as early as 2022, the last year of President Emmanuel Macron's five-year term.
Farmers Protest France's Roundup StanceFrance is currently the largest grain exporter in the European Union and French farmers, at least in so far as they can be represented by the country's farm unions, aren't happy about the Prime Minister's plan. "A full ban would be impossible to apply in France," said Christiane Lambert, who leads the French farm union FNSEA. Three hundred farmers joined on the Champs-Élysées, Paris' most famous street, to protest after the French Environment Minister came out in support of withdrawing glyphosate's license.
Ireland shares the doubts expressed in France. It was Irish health regulators who, in June 2016, refused to re-certify glyphosate's commercial license, with prominent backing from France and Germany.