EU postpones vote on ‘probably carcinogenic’ weedkiller – Significant public interest victory

9th March 2016 / EU

Yesterday the European commission was due to vote on relicensing the chemical glyphosate which is commonly used in a variety of weedkillers, including Monsanto’s Roundup. The vote was postponed after a number of countries, including Sweden, France, Italy and the Netherlands either called for more information, or opposed the licensing outright.

Aisha Dodwell, the policy and campaigns officer at Global Justice Now said:

“It’s a significant victory that the commission has been forced to postpone the decision to relicense glyphosate. Agribusiness lobbyists in Brussels will have been working overtime to push the decision through, but thousands of people across Europe are rightly concerned that a chemical that has been scientifically shown to be ‘probably carcinogenic’ should be so prevalent in our parks, our gardens and even our basic food stuffs. Sweden, France, Italy and Holland have shown the way in listening to both scientists and concerned citizens. We need to ensure that the UK politicians are looking out for the health and well-being of UK consumers and food producers rather than just pandering to the profit margins of big agribusiness companies like Monsanto who make millions through the sales of their weedkiller Roundup that contains glyphosate.”

The relicencing is controversial because of a recent World Health Organisation’s study that found glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Glyphosate is used everywhere from gardens, local parks and school playgrounds to our food, clothes and cosmetic products. In the last ten years 6,133million kilos have been sprayed globally and its use is rapidly increasing. Glyphosate is now so widespread that traces can be found in one out of every three loaves of bread consumed in the UK, it appears in all of Germany’s top 14 beers and it recently made headlines after being identified in numerous feminine hygiene products across Europe.

Concerns about the safety of glyphosate have prompted numerous bans, restrictions and campaigns across the world. From countries such as France, Sri Lanka, El Salvador and Colombia either banning or restricting its use, to Swiss retailers refusing to stock it; and from local communities banning it from their public spaces to 1.5million people signing  a petition urging the EU not to relicense it.

The EU called for its own European Food Standard Agency (EFSA) to carry out an alternative study, which rejected the WHO’s findings and claimed glyphosate is in fact safe for humans. But EFSA’s insisted that the data used in their study remained strictly secret and unavailable for any external scrutiny. The secretive study has also kept anonymous the names of the researchers. This makes it impossible to know whether any conflicted interests were at stake, which is particularly worrying given that EFSA’s research into product safety have been know to be rely on industry sponsored studies. This lack of transparency that triggered some 96 prominent scientists to write a fierce letter calling for the EFSA findings to be disregarded.



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