EU Delays Vote on Re-Approving Top Weedkiller Amid Health Worry

  • Current EU license for glyphosate expires at end of June
  • Germany jittery over concerns the herbicide may cause cancer

The European Union put off a decision on whether to renew the license for glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, as concerns the chemical may cause cancer left Germany struggling to take a stance.

The European Commission said it would ask EU national governments to give their verdict sometime before an end-of-June deadline, scrapping an earlier plan for a vote at a meeting on Thursday in Brussels. The EU permit for glyphosate was originally due to expire in December and was prolonged for six months to give the commission, the 28-nation bloc’s regulatory arm, and governments more time for deliberations.

The commission is proposing that glyphosate be reauthorized for nine years instead of the usual 15 years -- a political compromise after environmental groups called for glyphosate to be banned. The proposal needs the support of at least 16 EU governments representing a minimum 65 percent of the bloc’s population.

Glyphosate is marketed by more than 40 companies under various trade names after being patented initially by Monsanto Co., whose U.S. patent expired in 2000, according to the European Crop Protection Association. In Europe, the herbicide is used to tackle weeds in cereal crops, vineyards, and fruit and olive production.

The main European agricultural-lobby group, Copa-Cogeca, has urged the EU to keep glyphosate on the market, saying the herbicide is a “a key part of farmers’ tool box” and grain, wine, fruit and olive production would otherwise be “seriously threatened.”

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