European Parliament votes to ban most uses of glyphosate

Monsanto’s ‘probably carcinogenic’ Roundup is still on open retail sale

The EU Parliament has responded to the health concerns of millions by calling on the Commission to severely restrict permitted uses of the toxic herbicide glyphosate, including an effective ban on pre-harvest dessication of crops.

The European Parliament today adopted a resolution strongly opposing the Commission’s proposal to reapprove the controversial weedkiller glyphosate for use in Europe for 15 years.

The resolution flags significant concerns with the Commission’s proposal, notably calling for significantly restricting the uses for which glyphosate – best known in Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ formulation – could be approved.

The Parliament’s vote precedes a decision by EU government representatives on whether or not to support the Commission proposal to approve glyphosate for use in the EU. This may take place at the next EU pesticides committee meeting on 18-19 May.

While the 374 to 225 vote is non-binding on the Commission and EU governments, it will nonetheless carry strong moral weight since it comes from the EU’s only elected body directly representing EU citizens and will force a discussion of the issues raised.

The resolution calls for no approval of glyphosate – recently determined to be “probably carcinogenic” by the WHO’s cancer watchdog, the IARC – for many uses now considered acceptable, including:

  • non-professional uses;
  • in or close to public parks, playgrounds and gardens;
  • where integrated pest management systems are sufficient for necessary weed control.

It also calls for the renewal to be limited to just seven years instead of the 15 proposed by the Commission.

Pre-havest ‘dessication’ strictly limited

The resolution additionally demands strict limits on ‘pre-harvest’ applications on crops, with a strong recital calling such uses “unacceptable”. This refers to the practice of spraying crops up to two weeks before harvest to ‘dessicate’ the plants and make havesting easier.

Pre-harvest application of glyphosate is a clear route for human exposure to glyphosate via the harvested crop. Currently glyphosate formulations are licenced for a wide range of crops including wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape (canola), linseed, field beans and peas.

This use of glyphosate is believed to be the main source of the herbicide and its residues in bread and NGOs including the UK’s Soil Association are campaiging to stop this use.

European Parliament votes to ban most uses of glyphosate, the ecologist, 13th April 2016.
Roundup image Mike Mozart.

The resolution further calls for:

  • An independent review of overall toxicity of glyphosate;
  • A call on the Commission and EFSA to immediately disclose all scientific evidence for the positive classification of glyphosate, given the overriding public interest in disclosure;
  • A call on the Commission to test and monitor glyphosate residues in foods and drinks produced in the Union as well as in imported produce;
  • Strong criticism of the Commission for accepting an incomplete dossier with regard to endocrine disruption;
  • strong criticism of the problem of resistances of weed created by glyphosate, and the toxic spiral by agro-biotech companies adding further resistances to plants.

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