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EU apparently wants to allow "probably carcinogenic" glyphosate again for 15 years


Highlights: Germany wants to ban the use of the controversial pesticide glyphosate from 2024. In the EU, approval expires at the end of the year. Scientists are alarmed. EU authorities consider glyphosate to be non-carcinogenic. The dispute is still raging in the EU. But a clear decision has already been made in Germany: From 2024, from agriculture is to phase out glyphosate. But there is uncertainty within the current government as to whether this could be within Germany's current approval for this product.

Status: 18/09/2023, 17:03 p.m.

By: Amy Walker


Germany wants to ban the use of the controversial pesticide glyphosate from 2024. In the EU, approval expires at the end of the year. Scientists are alarmed.

BRUSSELS – Hardly any pesticide is as well-known as glyphosate. Not only because it is the most widely used crop protection product in the world, but above all because a public dispute has flared up for several years about whether glyphosate is carcinogenic. The numerous scientific studies that have been carried out on this subject come to different conclusions. But what is actually unanimous is comparatively little discussed: glyphosate damages biodiversity and contributes to insect mortality.

EU authorities consider glyphosate to be non-carcinogenic

The trench warfare over the pesticide glyphosate goes back a long way. As early as the early 2000s, the first studies on the connection between the plant poison and cancer were published. However, the case of an American small farmer who blamed glyphosate for his cancer caused a particularly stir. In 2019, he was proven right and the manufacturer, Bayer, had to pay him $25 million in damages.

Since then, there has been a heated debate in Europe as to whether glyphosate is carcinogenic – and should therefore be banned. In the EU, the approval for glyphosate expires in December 2023, which is why a decision must now be made. On 22 September, the Commission will apparently present a proposal that would extend the authorisation in the EU for another 15 years. In October, a vote will be held on the new registration.

As part of the new decree, the EU has commissioned the two competent authorities – the Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Chemicals Agency (ECHA) – to investigate the weed killer. Both authorities have analyzed thousands of studies and examined the use of glyphosate in various areas. ECHA concluded that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic. However, the Agency maintains the classification as harmful to aquatic life.

The EFSA concluded that there was not enough evidence that glyphosate was carcinogenic. Under certain conditions, the pesticide can be used safely.

Scientists outraged by the authorities' decision

This clears the way for glyphosate to be approved in the EU again for 15 years. But many scientists consider the decision to be a mistake. These voices were heard at an event on glyphosate authorisation, organised by the two MEPs Jutta Paulus (Greens) and Christophe Clergeau (Social Democrats). Some scientists pointed to problematic or flawed results in the studies analysed by the EU authorities. According to the consensus, there are enough scientific studies to justify a classification as carcinogenic according to EU regulations.


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Among the scientists who had their say was the US scientist Christopher Portier, who had also testified as an expert in the trial against Bayer in the USA. For him, the situation is clear: when asked whether glyphosate is harmless to the environment and health, he answers quite simply: "No." In most scientific studies on this topic, a connection could be established.

Consequences for ecosystems undisputed

However, there is a consensus on this – but little attention was paid to in the assessment of the EU authorities – concerns the effects of glyphosate on nature and the environment. EFSA found that glyphosate is harmful to most mammals. But the agency claimed that farmers could pay attention to the use of the pesticide and take countermeasures.

Numerous studies have now investigated the effects of the pesticide on all kinds of ecosystems: Glyphosate is now everywhere, in the water, in the air, in the soil - and in our food. It is also undisputed that the poison contributes to insect mortality, which in turn affects the lives of the birds that need the insects as a food source. However, little research has been done on the long-term effects of the pesticide on ecosystems.

Glyphosate residues in cereal products (2019): Glyphosate, a widely used herbicide, has been found in various cereal products, including oatmeal and cereal. © FrankHoermann/Sven Simon/IMAGO

While the dispute is still raging in the EU, a clear decision has already been made in Germany: From 2024, agriculture is to phase out glyphosate. This had already been decided by the previous federal government. But there is uncertainty within the current government as to whether Germany could decide this on its own. Should the EU extend the approval for glyphosate, it is still unclear whether Germany could maintain its ban.

Should the law have to be changed again, the issue could lead to the next traffic light dispute: The FDP considers a re-approval of glyphosate to be necessary, Greens are clearly against it.

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-09-18

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