French farmers fear three year deadline to find glyphosate alternative too narrow

NIOVILLE, France (Reuters) — President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to rid France of glyphosate within three years has some farmers in the European Union’s largest grain-producing country on edge.

After intense debate, the EU recently cleared U.S.-developed glyphosate for another five years despite concerns that the most widely used pesticide in the world can cause cancer.

EU rules allow France to unilaterally ban the substance, however, an approach Macron has decided to take. He has given farmers and researchers three years to come up with an alternative.

“Three years is too short,” said Herve Fouassier, 45, who runs a 500-acre farm in Loiret, south of Paris.

Like French farm unions, Fouassier does not believe a solution can be found in time.

“We are ready to hear the wishes of society which wants less use of crop protection products, but give us a little time to adapt,” he said, standing in a mustard field treated with glyphosate.

French crop growers said this week even five years is insufficient time because there is currently no economically and environmentally viable alternative to the weed killer.

Glyphosate was developed by Monsanto under the brand Roundup. It is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical companies.

Glyphosate’s worldwide success is linked to its low cost and safety compared to previously used products.

Concerns about its safety emerged when a World Health Organization agency concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer.

Other groups, such as the European Chemicals Agency, have since disputed those findings, saying there is no evidence linking glyphosate to cancer in humans. But worries persist.

French farmers fear that if a cheap alternative is not found before the deadline, France will be isolated in the EU, where competitors will be allowed to use glyphosate for another two years, and at a disadvantage to larger producers such as the United States or Latin America, where it is widely used.

The ban could cost the French grains sector an estimated $1 billion, and $1.4 billion for wine makers because of lower yields and exports, polling firm Ipsos found in a study commissioned by glyphosate makers.

Marc Leprince, 34, who manages a 500-acre farm in the Beauce grain region, is less concerned.

He grows half of his output following organic rules and the rest in conventional farming, all without using glyphosate.

Leprince uses long crop rotations, increased varieties and removes weeds mechanically and manually, techniques which increase costs. But he believes it’s worth it for his own health and that of consumers.

“What consumers must realize is that food will be more expensive because costs linked to these techniques will need to be reflected in the price of the end products,” he said, referring to the likely impact of the glyphosate ban.

Comments

  • richard

    It beggars the mind to comprehend how addiction to one chemical can paralyze the minds of otherwise intelligent people….. And let us make no mistake about it….. when it is impossible for you to carry on business without it…. it is addiction. Glyphosate is not the solution, its the problem, and the French government is staging an intervention on monoculture. The agronomic issues of over production, low prices, disease, pest and weed resistance can all be traced to the use and abuse of glyphosate. The monothematic habitual use of this product and its ancillary fungicide, pesticide counterparts at GMO world, all of them as prophylactic measures, are at the root of all current global cost/price and agronomic nightmares…….And the 40% of the European Unions 140 Billion euro budget paid to producers is doing nothing but enabling the ongoing delusion of “sustainability”. The illusion of cheap and abundant food is being exposed for what it is….costly and wasteful…..Strip away subsidies and the entire house of cards blows away in a good breeze, to be replaced hopefully with something resembling market discipline based on fundamental respect for the environment……Producers cannot grow their way out of the current falsehood any more than an addict can inject his way out of addiction, and the first step in ridding addiction is overcoming denial…. kudos to Macron.

    • Harold

      As with any deception, the corporation makes billions of dollars before the deception is ever discovered and they will make billions more upon the next one. The struggle to validate themselves against Nature is worth billions of dollars in profit to them for which they don’t mind the minor expenses, government grants and handouts and favorable legislation along the way.
      Incredibly, science always seems to support their profits and never the other way around. Convenient science; how handy it is to always have hand picked scientists on your side for which you can do no wrong until caught. Such has been the legacy of the chemical and bio corporations and society lacking in memory.

    • dario

      You want to make
      your interests with wheat production with the highest yields at the
      expense of health and you want us to use your grain full of glyphosate
      !! What does the Community Agricultural Policy have to do with it? Our small European companies compared to your extensions have much higher costs but our wheat does not have glyphosate !!
      Use it your wheat!

  • dario

    the
    decision of the French goes in the right direction, as for us Italians,
    we want to get to indicate in the pasta package the content of
    glyphosate content, and it is clear that our companies want to reach the
    maximum limit 0.1 ppb, practically zero, we do not want eat even in small doses what has been declared probable carcinogenic

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