Germany swings EU vote in favour of glyphosate

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) — Germany defeated its key European Union ally France in a very tight vote today to clear the use of glyphosate for the next five years after a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

After months of indecisive votes among the 28 member states in Brussels, Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to form a new coalition after a September election, came off the fence after abstaining in previous meetings. It said it backed a European Commission proposal against the wishes of France.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in May on a platform of pursuing deeper EU integration alongside Germany, had wanted a shorter extension and a rapid phasing out of the product, which is a mainstay of farming across the continent.

The commission, which is the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement that 18 countries had backed its proposal to renew the chemical’s license, with nine against and one abstaining — a “positive opinion” by the narrowest of possible margins under rules requiring more than a simple majority.

Europe has been wrestling for the past two years over what to do with the chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling Roundup, whose licence was set to expire Dec. 15.

Farmers have used the chemical for more than 40 years, but its safety was cast in doubt when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer.

The EU agreed to roll over the licence for 18 months pending the results of a study by the European Chemicals Agency, which said in March this year that there was no evidence linking glyphosate to cancer in humans.

However, protest groups seized on the IARC report, questioned the science in other studies and complained about the influence of big business.

“The people who are supposed to protect us from dangerous pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them,” Greenpeace said after today’s vote.

In theory, the commission could have pushed through a licence extension, but it said it wanted governments to make the call on an issue that has become so politically charged. After a series of indecisive votes, they finally produced a clear majority in favour of the commission’s proposal.

“Today’s vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making,” said Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis.

The farmers association Copa-Cogeca said it was glad a decision had been taken, but regretted the licence renewal had not been for 15 years, given strong scientific evidence of EU agencies.

The key swing vote came from Germany, whose government is still operating in an acting capacity following an indecisive September election. Berlin abstained earlier but threw its weight behind a decision opposed by France.

Poland, Bulgaria and Romania all did likewise, leaving only Portugal still on the fence today. Had any of the others continued to abstain, the deadlock would have continued. An extension required 16 states representing 65 percent of the EU population to vote in favour. The 18 supporters account for 65.7 percent.

The German vote exposed internal divisions in Berlin, where Merkel is preparing for talks this week on renewing a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks from the SPD accused the chancellor’s centre-right group of reneging on a deal to continue abstaining.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert told reporters that Paris would push to change farming practices that embraced alternatives to glyphosate so that its use could be ended.

About the author

Comments

  • Bill Monroe

    Great news. 40 years of safe use, no connection to cancer at all, I’m happy to see that science wins out over the baseless fear mongering.

    • Frank

      Hmmm, seems like I’ve heard this kind of sentiment before! Science is the new religion – yours is not to question why – just drink the Koo-laid

      • Happy Farmer

        40 years of intensive questioning and still no proof that glyphosate is bad?
        Maybe the time for questioning it should end!
        Are you saying that questioning and personal emotionally based decisions are superior to science? We all need the science to give facts so we can make decisions. The fact that science is being discarded for personal opinions is alarming to me.
        Why is your opinion more accurate than mine or anyone else’s? (That’s why we need scientific facts).

        • Frank

          Science is not pure fact, especially when they are paid by the chemical companies. You don’t have to look hard to see false reports. Consider that DDT and a myriad of other dangerous chemicals were was considered safe and had their proponents. Look at the tobacco industry for more examples.

          • Happy Farmer

            Check out a website called – bestfoodfacts.org

          • richard

            Great layout……bad name…….there are no good better best facts ok….A fact is a fact, no relativity please….. which is the first red flag…. Secondly it is long on experts and short on substance…. The most enlightened commentary on organic agriculture was that it generally produced food with higher mineral and antioxidant content, and less trace agritoxins….but otherwise not relevant?…..Curious how none of their expertise includes input from ecologists, successful organic or biodynamic growers, master chefs, vegan dieticians, endocrinologists, immunologists, educated consumers……you know, the kind of people who actually live food….and the consequences of bad food. Creating a clearing house to perpetuate status quo opinions does nothing but punctuate the chasm between science and the sea change that is taking place in peoples attitudes and lifestyles…..with or without the elites approval..

        • Harold

          Tell me what science is so that I can accept your judgement. What does just the word science exactly mean before the term is actually applied to anyone or any thing. I have lost my dictionary and perhaps you in all of your ability can help. Do you have one to share – to help take me out of my utter confusion? We are all still using the English dictionary – aren’t we? If we didn’t – we would have all sorts of fictional meanings and thoughts wouldn’t we? As you say, Just the facts please and perhaps you can help.

          • Happy Farmer

            I doubt you have lost your printed dictionary, but perhaps you have one memorized?
            Science- the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Or-a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.

          • Harold

            You are correct; I didn’t lose my dictionary – I lost your dictionary. Yes. Science means only – the study of. and from that you title – exactly what you are studying, whether it be politics, or human behaviours, oceans, animals, health, universe, and they are each fractioned into smaller bits and each bit is titled the same word – SCIENCE. The study of.
            Based upon your dictionary description and then looking at your previous comment, what does – “are you saying that questioning and personal emotionally based decisions are superior to science’ supposed to mean? . What does – “maybe the time for questioning it should end’ supposed to mean? Does not all science start with a question and curiosity not the question its self? What does – “why is your opinion more accurate than mine or anyone else’s” supposed to mean? Based upon your dictionary, aren’t we all scientists – Don’t all humans have [the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment] and isn’t this description you – and don’t you – describe the origins of science, or do you think that science has discovered – you? Based upon your dictionary, what does 40 years mean? Has the knowledge – of the science base – ever been wrong, and was the wrong presented by the new information placed into that knowledge base -from the study of? based upon your dictionary, what does scientific fact mean? Has nature ever provided science the facts or just the journey? Has the universe ever given science the facts or just the journeys? Has God ever given us the facts or just the journey? Can science turn water into wine or place a new eye into the blind man or just Jesus Christ can do that? Apparently they don’t know all of the facts do they? When my mechanic knows all of the facts my car is working properly. How is our sickness and environment doing with all of our scientific facts? How was nature doing before we began “discovering it” and “studying it”? How would nature be doing right now if money were not our object? Science has become money. Are there no facts?

    • ed

      The science actually confirms how dangerous this stuff is. Yah for science.

    • Harold

      “Germany swings EU vote in favour of glyphosate”. Gee, I wonder where Bayer/Monsanto are located? I’m very sure that science won out and that corporate Influence had nothing to do with it and this is all just a coincidence.

  • alora hughes

    The news that glyphosate will be renewed for another 18 months tells the public that science over rules opinions. This chemical has been used for 40 years as the article states with no proven research linking it to negative health conditions. Organizations use fear tactics to scare consumers into believing products are unsafe. The research that has been conducted regarding glyphosate over the years has been extensive and the one report that found glyphosate concerning has been widely questioned. Until science proves that a chemical is harmful there is no reason to take it off the market and reduce the resources available to farmers. Now more than ever we need to reduce weed competition and increase yeilds to feed the population that is growing at an alarming rate.

    • Frank

      Curiosity #1, what do the fear mongers gain from … fear mongering?
      Now if we look at bias and the dollars and cents within the pesticide industry, then we can see what is really being protected.

      Curiosity #2: interesting to see a follow up with industry fear mongering on population.
      Wouldn’t life be grand if there weren’t opposing view points.
      Keep your pesticides .. I will refuse to be force fed!

      • Harold

        I’m with you. in a free choice, If I don’t eat their pesticides I have nothing to fear from the fear mongers. It does seem that the fear mongers have nothing to gain. But it seems that something has a fear of loss? Are they mongering that fear of loss? It would seem that fear mongering is an act and the cause of my neighbour not paying off my mortgage. I think the industry is “high” on their own fumes. They say that “curiosity killed the cat” but what they don’t let on – is that curiosity – was the name of their “guard dog”. I enjoyed your curiosity. (disclaimer – Stuffed animals were used and no real cats died in the production of this comment)

    • Denise

      Nope, you got it backwards. Glyphosate should have been proven safe long before allowing it out on the market. It’s called the “Precautionary Principle”. Science used to stand by that principle.
      The powerful players have been able to prevent or alter proper testing and hide its known side effects for a long time. POWERFUL interests seem to always get their way on this continent.
      Don’t get out the balloons and party hats, just yet. There are quite a few EU countries that are not coming to the party, hosted by Germany.
      Oh by the way, I guess you haven’t heard about “Super Weeds”. They are resistant to Roundup (glyphosate). It’s losing its effectiveness.
      And, the world is quite capable of feeding it’s people with clean agro technology and will be healthier for it.
      Thank god Mother Nature is smarter than arrogant mankind or we all would have died centuries ago.
      When all else fails, common sense prevails!!!

      • alora hughes

        The thing is, this has been tested thouroughly over 40 years. Its not like it was put on the market before research was conducted. Yes products have to been safe before putting them on the market, however the stigma that social media has created around glyphosate has blown up causing people to question it without sound research. The once article that states it may be harmful has been discredited by many research organizations. Funny you are talking about common sense when you are one of the individuals swayed by one piece of skewed data. I most certainly have heard of super weeds, but that is from not using other agronomic tools like rotating crops and rotating pesticide use. Super weeds also are a much smaller problem than the problem of feeding the world. You state you don’t need herbicides because there are clean agro technology to feed the world? There are no other practises that can provide the yields that crops sprayed with pesticides can. This tells me you don’t understand farming or the practises involved. Before you start commenting on articles and making blanket claims you should conduct research. That is peer reviewed research, not biased articles posted without sound evidence.

        • richard

          But lets not let facts get in the way of agribiz mythology….. There are in fact thirteen weed species on sixty million acres, tolerant to glyphosate (USDA 2013) the direct result of chemical abuse and lack of agronomic acumen….not a small problem…..and growing every hour of every day….. There are eight hundred million people on planet earth without sufficient calories in their diet, but of course that has nothing to do with there not being enough glyphosate in the biosphere, rather politics and greed…..And the need to feed myth is directly contradicted by the $25B USD subsidies (USDA) per annum to prop up commodity prices from the wrath of overproduction…… …

        • Denise

          Research was conducted by Monsanto before putting it on the market and the results of their findings ,which did not support the agrochemical corp’s intentions for marketing it, were shelved and hidden from scrutiny. Monsanto claimed they were “trade secrets”!!! Indeed they were secrets that they did not want out in the public domain. Now with many court cases underway, they can no longer hide their secrets.
          I suggest you read Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam
          to broaden your knowledge on the subject.
          Gillam has been equated to Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring”.

      • Happy Farmer

        Ok, I’ll buy into the precautionary principle. But it no longer applies to glyphosate as science has proven it to be safe. One can assume those opposed are; uninformed, stubborn, or it has just become a political issue for votes.
        Every single method of weed control has pros and cons. That is why farmers are constantly adapting to new and innovative ideas. This is true of every type of farming.

        • Denise

          I don’t think adding stronger doses of glyphosate in greater quantities with a splash of dicamba to the fields is new or innovative. The Big Agrochemical corps are running out of chemical potion combinations for the farmers to try out. And the farmers are starting to realize the big boys may not necessarily have the answers and are leading them down a dark valley.
          Maybe it’s time to get back to the basics of life before our once fertile land and waterways are beyond resurrection.

    • ed

      Cigarettes are one other example of safe products that are allowed to be used by citizens and sanctioned by governments around the globe. Science wins for sure. Commerce, money and influence never have anything to do with these decisions…..at all…..ever….obviously. Righttttt….!

      • alora hughes

        I think you need to consider that cigarettes are known to be bad for you. The package has a picture of the consequences of smoking( such as a cancerous mouth) yet people choose to purchase them anyway. The difference is, glyphosate has been tested for years and there has been no sound research to indicate any health problems. The fact that the EU approved this when the are against many agriculture technologies such as genetic modification speaks volumes. One article came out from IARC stating it may cause health problems, and suddenly all the research that has been conducted over the past 40 years is disregarded? Not to mention that research has been discredited by many research bodies stating how their data has been skewed. Your comparison to cigarettes is hardly the same situation.

        • ed

          Exactly.

        • Harold

          Science did not discover the harm of tobacco, sickness did. The sickness is known bad for you. The sickness was only known after many years of its use.
          Apparently, you don’t understand the folly of science; the folly Ed has pointed to.
          Why is that?

    • Frank

      Quoted from above …”Now more than ever we need to reduce weed competition and increase
      yeilds to feed the population that is growing at an alarming rate.”

      I just came across the article below that looks at alternative ideas and true innovation to feed the masses. Open dialogue and the willingness to think outside the box and corporate agenda. Feeding 10M is not an impossible task. What is especially important; this needs to be accomplished without an alarming cost to the environment.

      http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-11-27/organic-agriculture-10-billion-people/

  • Denise

    The chemical herbicides with glyphosate (Roundup) are harmful and deadly for butterflies and bees. It’s incredible that they spray road allowances with herbicides and then (laugh) the municipalities come along and mow the road allowances,too.This makes it very difficult for the Monarchs to survive and reproduce,because glyphosate kills the milkweed they need to complete their life cycle.
    I understand why they have to mow along road allowances to kept roads open in winter. But spray as well? It’s not necessary and costly to taxpayers as well.
    http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/monarch-butterfly-11-30-2017.php

explore

Stories from our other publications