The European Parliament called Tuesday for use of glyphosate to be phased out over the next five years. This resolution was announced a day before a committee of expert representatives from EU member nations was due to meet in Brussels to discuss the European Commission’s proposal to renew the license for glyphosate for the next ten years.
The European Commission, however, told Reuters that ultimately, “the relevant committee did not vote” today and that it would announce a new meeting “shortly."
While Parliament’s resolution is non-binding, it represents “a powerful political signal” to member governments, reports Le Monde. The Guardian notes that France has already shown resistance to the renewal of the license, and representatives have even stated the country's intention to vote against it. Germany, meanwhile, is likely to abstain from the vote. It remains unclear how the UK will vote, particularly given the imminence of Brexit.
"The European Parliament has correctly acknowledged the magnitude of glyphosate's risks," Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. "Now European regulators charged with protecting human health and the environment must follow the parliament's brave leadership and phase out the gross overuse of glyphosate."
The EU’s current glyphosate license expires at the end of the year.
Hours after the resolution, Greenpeace heralded the vote, calling the resolution “a breath of fresh air.” The organization expressed concern over a subsequent Commission proposal to extend the license for glyphosate to seven years, however, calling it "a fudge that changes nothing about how much people are exposed and how much the environment is contaminated."
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“The direction given is to strive to reach between five and seven years, taking into account the risk assessment made by the European Parliament in today’s vote,” a Commission spokesman told Reuters.
Parliament voted 355 to 204 in favor of the resolution, with 111 abstentions. Parliament not only demanded that glyphosate be phased out entirely by mid-December 2022 but also that the Commission immediately ban the use of the herbicide in households and public parks, as well as in farming situations where biological alternatives, such as integrated pest management systems, could be used instead. This already the case in certain member countries such as France, where such legislation went into effect in January.
A previous draft resolution from Members of European Parliament had called for a ban on the chemical over the course of the next three years, eradicating it entirely by December 2020. This proposal was modified in order to give the industry more time to find the adequate replacements for the herbicide and to draw up plans to phase it out.
This resolution follows the August reveal of the Monsanto Papers, internal company documents released in a U.S. court case that suggest that Monsanto knew about the dangers of glyphosate and hid them from the public. It was also revealed that the European Food Safety Authority had only concluded that glyphosate was safe after relying on a review that lifted language from a Monsanto report.
The EFSA's findings contrasted those of the World Health Organization, which stated in 2015 that glyphosate was a likely human carcinogen.
Tuesday’s developments also follow the delivery of a petition by the European Citizens’ Initiative calling on the EU to ban glyphosate. The petition was signed by 1.3 million Europeans and will trigger a public hearing in Parliament in November, reports the Independent.
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