The controversial weed poison glyphosate is to be banned in Germany on December 31, 2023. Then the permit in the EU including the transitional period expires. The planned "mandatory termination of use" of glyphosate-containing funds is part of a program for insect repellent and was decided on Wednesday by the Federal Cabinet in Berlin.
According to this, the application should be significantly restricted from 2020 by means of a "systematic reduction strategy". One of the plans is to prohibit the use of home and garden gardens and public areas such as parks. In addition, there should be restrictions for farmers, including an application ban before harvest. This should avoid about three quarters of the amount of glyphosate used in Germany.
Glyphosate was launched by US seed company Monsanto in the 1970s and is one of the most widely used weed killers now sold by many companies. Monsanto is now part of the German agrochemical and pharmaceutical group Bayer, which is facing in the US with thousands of lawsuits for alleged cancer risks of glyphosathaltiger herbicides. The most important sales markets are the US and Brazil.
Glyphosate - The most important thing at a glance
Carcinogenic or not carcinogenic?
Authorities worldwide have assessed the risks of glyphosate to the population when used properly. To conclude that the substance is not carcinogenic , come among other things:
- the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)
- the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa)
- the US Environmental Protection Agency EPA
- the Canadian assessment authority Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA)
- Australia's Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
- the Japanese Food Safety Commission
- the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency EPA
- the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and
- the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
Manipulation allegations on all sides
Glyphosate advocates and opponents in the debate try to impose their interests by all means and weaken the other side. The overview:
- Glyphosate manufacturer Monsanto appears to have been trying to influence the decision-making process of the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa). To what extent this was successful is unclear. The company is also accused of having paid researchers for positive glyphosate reports. The company denies that.
- The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) accuse environmentalists to have copied passages from the application for approval of Monsanto. However, in the introduction to the relevant chapters, it is announced that sections of the application will be reproduced below and that the Authority has supplemented its own assessment, if necessary.
- A glycose critical assessment of the IARC ("probably carcinogenic") involved an expert in conflicts of interest. Christopher Portier received at least $ 160,000 from US lawyers suing Monsanto on behalf of potential glyphosate victims.
- In addition, in a section of the IARC report, in several cases, the assessment of studies from "non-carcinogenic" to neutral or positive ("carcinogenic") has been revised at the draft stage, according to Reuters news agency. The IARC denies that.
Glyphosate and insects
Glyphosate is mentioned again and again in connection with insect killing. In October 2017, researchers published a much-noticed study on insect wastage in Germany. A proof that pesticides are the cause, they did not find - especially as the investigation took place in nature reserves.
However, it is obvious that conventional agriculture with monocultures and pesticides plays a role in insect killing. However, reducing the problem to glyphosate alone is not enough.
In September 2018, researchers showed in a study that glyphosate can alter the intestinal flora of bees. In a 2015 study examining the effect of 42 common pesticides on honey bees, scientists ranked glyphosate 42nd in the list, the least toxic in comparison.
Glyphosate = Monsanto?
In connection with glyphosate is usually called Monsanto as a manufacturer. The company first brought the substance to market in the 1970s. However, the patent expired in 2000. Monsanto, which has since been acquired by Bayer, is still the market leader with a share of approximately 40 percent. In addition to the company, several dozen other companies worldwide offer glyphosate-containing herbicides.
In Germany, according to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), 37 agents are currently approved with glyphosate, which are sold under 105 trade names.
Application in Germany
Plants take up glyphosate mainly through the leaves. From there, the active ingredient gets into the whole organism and blocks the production of amino acids. This causes the plant to die. In Germany, glyphosate comes on the field before the crop is sown. Otherwise not only the weeds, but also the sown plant would die off. Only in exceptional cases may glyphosate be used before harvesting.
The material kills weeds and other plants, which is why conservationists criticize the means as damaging to the ecological diversity. In order to protect bees and other insects, the Federal Government also wants to severely restrict the use of weed and pest poisons. Weed-killers and insecticides that damage biodiversity should be taboo in nature reserves and other protected areas from 2021 on, for example, at natural monuments or in national parks.
The federal states should be able to determine particularly important bird protection areas for insect protection, in which the same rules apply. Exceptions must be approved by nature conservation authorities. In the future, there must be a distance of five meters between the areas of application and the waters if the water's edge is permanently landscaped - otherwise even ten meters. Again, countries can set exceptions.
The action program is not a law, this will follow only in the coming months. The Grand Coalition had written the protection of bees and other insects threatened by intensive agriculture. Nevertheless, there was dispute over the specific regulations for well over a year.
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The federal government wants to spend an additional 100 million euros per year for the promotion of insect protection in the agricultural landscape and beyond. Research should also be supported.
The use of glyphosate has been arguing for some time. The budget was approved for a further five years in the EU in 2017 after months of dispute. By contrast, there had been massive protests, especially in Germany.
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer identified in March 2015 glyphosate as a "likely carcinogen" for humans. However, the institution only examines whether a substance is fundamentally capable of causing cancer. The Food Authority Efsa, the chemicals agency Echa and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, however, do not see sufficient evidence of an immediate danger from the substance to the consumer.