Europe continues approving glyphosate, but trouble still brewing

The public wrangling and political theatre over glyphosate has been resolved in Europe, but the story is far from over, says a Canadian expert in pesticide regulations.

The European Commission announced June 28 that it would extend its approval of glyphosate for 18 months. The decision came only two days before the EU registration for glyphosate, the most popular herbicide in the world, was slated to expire June 30.

European politicians and regulators have bickered over glyphosate for more than a year, following an International Agency for Research on Cancer report that classified the herbicide as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Several agencies, including the European Food Safety Authority, issued their own studies and concluded that glyphosate does not cause cancer. However, France and several other nations insisted that the EC must ban glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and dozens of generic herbicides.

Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry with CropLife Canada, said the political fracas over glyphosate will persist.

“I don’t want to be the pessimist … but I don’t see it going away anytime soon,” he said.

“Their own food safety authority has said this is not a cancer issue, and you’ve even got the residue experts of the World Health Organization … saying, no, this is not a cancer issue…. And yet we still have this debate, and actually countries voting against the re-registration of glyphosate. It’s hard to be very optimistic.”

How the debate plays out will ultimately affect Canadian farmers because the country’s grains and oilseed sector would like to export more product to Europe.

The EU-Canada free trade deal includes elimination of European tariffs on a number of agricultural commodities and food, including wheat, canola oil and frozen french fries. However, the removal of financial tariffs is meaningless if the EU obstructs imports of Canadian products over chemical residues, including glyphosate.

“It’s kind of false hope,” Petelle said.

“You think you’ve got a potential increase in market because you removed a financial barrier, (but) it’s very swiftly taken away when you add these non-tariff (barriers).”

ADVERTISMENT

A federal government website says the Canada-EU free trade agreement, known has the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, includes provisions to deal with things such as pesticide residues in grain.

“CETA establishes a mechanism under which Canada and the EU will co-operate to discuss, and attempt to prevent or resolve, non-tariff barriers that may arise for agricultural exports.”

Petelle said Canadian and European negotiators have to work out the details of the mechanism to prevent “non-tariff trade barriers (created) for purely political reasons.”

“It’s not spelled ou t… in the current wording that we’ve been privy to. That’s a concern,” he said from his Ottawa office.

“On crop protection … we advocate for a risk based approach. That’s a fundamental difference. Europe is going down the hazard based (regulatory) path.”

Gary Stanford, Grain Growers of Canada president, agreed that Canadian negotiators should push for a risk-based methodology, in which chemical safety is assessed according to real world exposures.

“There are always these political games that get played,” he said.

“We (need) to stay with the sound science.”

Europe is also debating regulations regarding endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal system.

The regulations could potentially apply to numerous agricultural chemicals.

ADVERTISMENT

“Most of the fungicides currently used in Canada, using their definition, would qualify as endocrine disrupting substance s… and could potentially be banned,” Petelle said.

“When you start banning products based on supposed health rationales, according to EU regulations they’re (required to) remove the import MRLs.”

Consequently, Canadian producers might have to avoid applications of certain crop products if the grain or oilseed is destined for Europe.

Many Canadian farmers might wonder if the EU market for grain is worth the hassle, considering that the Europeans may be headed down a regulatory rabbit hole.

Petelle said Canadian producers shouldn’t forgo the opportunity because the EU is the largest food importer in the world.

Stanford said European regulations around food safety are highly political, but it’s difficult to abandon such an important market.

“We’re the largest exporter of durum in the world and a lot of (it) goes into southern (Europe),” he said.

“And we sell a lot of hard red spring wheat into the Warburton contract in the U.K.… It’s hard to give up on (Europe).”

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

ADVERTISMENT

  • richard

    “There are always the political games that get played…We need to stay with sound science”…..Gary Stanford surely refers to the games played by vested corporate interests to preserve status quo ignorance…..And of course he is referring to the sound science of Glyphosate resistance on fourteen weeds and sixty million acres in the USA…….Gary I’m going to have to call the humane society on you…..you and your ilk are beating a dead horse… Get over your addiction to the one trick pony called Roundup ok? Its an antibiotic and people dont want it in their food…..

    • neil

      Actually there is science on glyphosate resistance. It is a very concerning problem for grain farmers like myself who use it to help with zero till seeding, a method that is better for the soil than lots of cultivation. I have been using glyphosate no more than needed and tank mixing other products with it to try to avoid any weed resistance issues. At this time I feel soil conservation is the more important problem for long term sustainability. That may change in the future and I may have to change my methods.

      • Harold

        If the Bio Industry’s “science” is so factual, and so proven, and so
        anti-science if not approved, and so safe, is there any thoughts on how “resistance” got past the “Industry science?” As you say, it is very concerning. As before, with agent orange and PCB’s, the “Science” industry will make their billions before anyone is the wiser, and move on to their next proven miracle for humanity. With the original seeds in short supply and unable to grow in dead soil, world hunger would be eminent with the exit of gmo. Was that the game?

        • neil

          There is general agreement from the manufacturers’ of pesticides but more importantly from independent university and government scientists that weed resistance is not a biological change in the weed but in all natural populations of weeds there is a one in a million weed that is not controlled by a given pesticide. So what “got past:” the industry people and independent scientists and farmers was if a product was used too many times on one type of weed eventually that one in a million weed would reproduce many times to become a population of weeds not controlled. As for the “science” industry they have done many miracles in cancer, heart disease, nutrition, etc.So our society has developed more rapidly than those who have less science. That is only my opinion. No I don’t think anyone is conspiring to create world hunger.

          • Harold

            “One in a million weed” in science means- total failure. What was the miracle that brought us Cancer, Heart disease, and our new found meaning of Nutrition. Junk Food? Now its a miracle to- Operate, Chemotherapy, and Radiate- just as they did in the 1950’s, relieve the body stress of “Junk food”. How do you explain our forefathers lack of Science. miracle whip?
            As far as your ideas about Manufacturers, Independent University and Government Scientists and what is publicly said – allow me a quote from Mark Twain-
            “In religion and politics, peoples beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue, but have taken them at second hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” (end quote) Where do you find the greatest levels of secrecy?. Your opinion on conspiracy may change if you devote some time to examination. (to disprove Mark Twain, fully read: Agent Orange – Wikipedia and watch you-tube- Money masters full documentary)

          • neil

            Well I disagree that it is total failure. Science is all about testing new hypothesis and learning new conclusions. I certainly disagree with your opinion about science has done for our developed society in medicine and many other aspects of our daily life. It sounds to me you don’t like living in a modern world and would prefer living like they did 100-200 years ago. Go ahead and do without modern conveniences like hydro, heat, water pressure, etc. I think there are developed governments and large companies that don’t want to share wealth and power but that doesn’t mean everyone is bad. I feel sorry for you that you are so negative about life.

  • neil

    I don’t think having questions is a bad thing, I think it is what has made mankind what it is today, good and bad.I think it is well known that agent orange was a bad experiment on humans and we all suspect there are conspiracies in money and governments so I didn’t read your suggestions. I didn’t say I knew enough about money, banks and government, you seem to be the expert! Sounds like you spread fiction just as much as anyone else who doesn’t want to listen to a different point of view. After all you “know fabricated dismissals when you read them” what if they don’t agree with your opinion then what do you do, just dismiss them?

    • Harold

      When facing conflicting opinions, do I “just dismiss them?” No, I simply debate them. There would be no meaningful debate nor agreement between either topics of agent orange nor banking, between you and I – Just opinions. (you didn’t read) There is no question in my mind that everything I say to you is received as fiction.

  • David,

    I was on vacation for the last two weeks and it appears no one had time to moderate these comments in my absence.

    Sometimes “corruption” is not the only possible explanation.

    Cheers,
    Paul – WP web ed