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Up-date glyphosate approval: Intransparent and unacceptable - 1st vote sends important signal

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) did not meet today with the necessary qualified majority to approve the Commission's proposed ten-year extension of the use of glyphosate. "Today's vote is an important stage victory for the complete ban of this highly potent poison and a clear signal to the Commission. The billion-dollar business of agrochemicals must not be put above the health and safety of humans, nature and farmers", explains Martin Häusling, Greens' agricultural policy spokesperson in the European Parliament and member of the Environment and Health Committee. The Greens/EFA Group calls on those Member States that have opposed the Commission's proposal to stay the course. A complete ban on glyphosate is needed.

photo WIX

The glyphosate extension is not yet off the table

The last word has not yet been spoken, further votes in various EU bodies will follow and it is important that there is no never-ending story through further variations of the proposal or referral to the Appeals and Complaints Committee. If no agreement is reached, the Commission can act on its own and impose the glyphosate extension without SCoPAFF's approval.

"It would be better to decide in the interests of biodiversity and health and take the extension completely off the table now." Martin Häusling

Numerous scientific studies justify the concerns of millions of EU citizens who demand an end to glyphosate, but have so far been ignored by the Commission. The re-approval of this pesticide would be completely out of time in view of the extinction of species, Häusling explains. Pesticides bear a considerable share of the blame for the biodiversity crisis and should be banned as far as possible. An extension of the authorisation would make a mockery of this realisation and would also torpedo the goals of the EU biodiversity strategy!

Grafik: CagleCartoon

Common sense should prevail - Chronology of the glyphosate drama

The authorisation for the highly controversial pesticide glyphosate, which has been proven to harm humans and nature, is to be extended by 10 years. This recently revealed surprise coup by the EU Commission met with considerable opposition and triggered so much protest that the Commission promised a review. But insiders do not expect a U-turn, but an irresponsible extension of the authorisation of the poison. The dramatic struggle over the agricultural poison glyphosate, which has been going on for years, is continuing and can hardly be surpassed in terms of the lack of transparency on the part of EFSA, the EU authority responsible for evaluation. Despite many proven risks to human health and catastrophic effects on the environment, a majority will probably be found for the extension of the authorisation. "Political responsibility and compliance with the precautionary principle required by EU regulations are different!" (Martin Häusling, MEP)

One year ago, in October 2022, the Standing Committee of the European Commission voted on a possible extension of glyphosate. The unsatisfactory result: no opinion, as no clear majority was reached. Martin Häusling, agricultural policy spokesman for the Greens and member of the Environment and Health Committee of the European Parliament stated at the time: "Glyphosate is a toxic pesticide that should disappear from our fields and plates better today than tomorrow. It is hard to bear that the industry now gets an extension for another year because it did not provide all the data from the beginning. There is no way around the EU-wide extension of glyphosate until the end of 2023, despite the lack of a majority in the competent committee of the Member States, because the decisive opinion of the European Food Safety Agency, EFSA, is not yet available." Häusling commented confidently at the time: "However, it is good that EFSA is taking its matter seriously and is carrying out a thorough assessment of glyphosate. The catastrophic effects on biodiversity must also be included.

I am counting on the EFSA opinion to show that glyphosate cannot be extended beyond 2023. Common sense should prevail." Martin Häusling

photo WIX

Disappointed hope

Summer 2023: Renewed run by EU bodies for further approval of the pesticide classified by the WHO as probably carcinogenic. At the beginning of July, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) presented its assessment and caused great surprise, indignation and incomprehension, because "it seems as if they had simply copied the assessment from 2017", said Martin Häusling. To certify glyphosate as harmless requires either reading with eye patches or ignoring essential studies. The latter is a permanent problem of this authority. "What is given here as an assessment is not appropriate for a careful risk assessment and, from a scientific point of view, would not even pass as a master's thesis at any global faculty," Häusling comments.

After a hearing in early October, Häusling declared:

"No matter how you spin it: Glyphosate remains a highly potent poison that must be taken off the market. The intended extension of the authorisation, even with further improvements, would be a rotten and unacceptable compromise at the expense of people, nature and farmers and cannot be approved.

What the Commission has done here is a slap in the face of all those who stand up for a healthy environment. It makes a mockery of people's legitimate concerns and fears about environmental toxins and the loss of biodiversity. Political responsibility and adherence to the precautionary principle required by EU regulations is a different matter!

Adventurous conclusions on a non-transparent data basis

The Commission also owes the public a conclusive explanation as to how it came to the adventurous conclusion to continue to approve the substance at all and not to refuse further approval. The massive data gaps of EFSA made the Commission's intention completely incomprehensible and downright negligent. EFSA had still not submitted any studies of its own, but relied on industry studies. "However, the known damage to soils, water bodies and the microbiome cannot be ignored. Should there be further authorisation for the EU, national governments must adopt an absolute restrictive interpretation", Häusling demands.

Flowering seed-bearing leek (photo Karin Heinze)

Every year, hundreds of thousands of organic farms show that it is possible to grow crops without glyphosate - with sensible crop rotation and good soil management, says Häusling, who is an organic farmer himself.

Proven to be highly dangerous

Since the last evaluation of glyphosate by the EFSA in 2017, there have been dozens of new studies and publications on glyphosate, which clearly show that glyphosate is dangerous, Häusling explains. It can harm biodiversity, insects and soil organisms, the human microbiome, embryonic development, and even directly cross the brain barrier. In 2022, scientists at the University of Arizona showed for the first time in animal experiments that glyphosate can interfere with the metabolism of neurotransmitters in a way that could promote diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

The current assessment does not take the health of users and consumers seriously enough and seems negligent with regard to the biodiversity strategy. Martin Häusling

Pesticide experts from the German environment association BUND list the risks of glyphosate for human health:

  • According to the WHO, glyphosate is probably carcinogenic in humans.

  • Glyphosate can damage the nervous system.

  • Glyphosate can affect the microbiome in the gut.

  • Glyphosate can cause oxidative stress.

  • Glyphosate residues can be found in many foods, water, air and even in the human body.

Author: Karin Heinze, BiO Reporter International

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