Top Weedkiller to Stay on EU Market for at Least One More Year

  • Europe due to prolong glyphosate permit for 12 to 18 months
  • EU to stop short of renewal decision pending cancer-risk study

The European Commission said it would keep glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, on the market for at least 12 more months while awaiting a study of whether the chemical causes cancer.

The commission, the European Union’s regulatory arm in Brussels, plans on Wednesday to extend the current license for glyphosate for an extra 12 to 18 months pending a review by Europe’s chemicals agency of the health risks. The commission gained sole power to prolong the permit in early June when the EU’s 28 national governments were divided over the matter.

The EU authorization for glyphosate was originally due to expire last December and was prolonged for six months through June to give the commission and governments more time for deliberations.

“We have a deadline of June 30 and we’ll adopt an extension” of up to 18 months, EU Health and Food-Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told reporters in televised remarks on Tuesday in Luxembourg.

The planned extension of the current license until as late as the end of 2017 also follows a split among EU nations over an earlier commission proposal to reauthorize glyphosate for nine years. That recommendation, which politically influential countries such as Germany and France balked at, was itself a compromise after the commission considered proposing a 15-year renewal and environmental groups called for glyphosate to be banned.

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.”

Prolonging the current permit for as long as 18 months covers the period during which the European Chemicals Agency is due to produce its review.

The European Food Safety Authority concluded in November that glyphosate “is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization said in a joint report on May 16 that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

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