The European Commission has voted to leave the herbicide glyphosate in political limbo for another 18 months, re-extending the authorization but not granting final approval.
The action, which comes at the same time the Commission is attempting to deal with the fallout from Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, is being seen by some as symptomatic of how the EC attempts to meddle in even the smallest details of European life.
Farm organizations in the U.S. applauded the re-extension of the authorization, but criticized the European Commission for providing only “temporary relief” on the issue, as the American Soybean Association said.
“An 18-month extension gives U.S. farmers and exporters the assurance that they will at least have access to the European market for that period of time,” said ASA President Richard Wilkins, a Greenwood, Del., farmer. “Clearly that’s not the certainty the industry needs, but it’s better than nothing.
“That said, we are still extraordinarily frustrated by the unscientific approach in the EU. Remember, the European Food Safety Authority found that glyphosate is safe. Given this repeatedly proven fact, it’s a relief that the Commission decided to step in and issue this reauthorization, even after the Council of Ministers was unable to find the support among its members to affirm the EFSA finding.”
Continued progress is needed, however, said Wilkins. “A logical and welcomed next step will be for the EU to finalize approval of the three pending biotech varieties. With that approval, our farmers can move forward with the certainty they need.”
An official with Monsanto, the glyphosate registrant, also expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling in a statement, although it will ensure European farmers, municipalities and gardeners will continue to have access to the herbicide for now.
“European farmers, municipalities, gardeners and other users have depended on glyphosate for 40 years as a safe, efficient and cost-effective tool for weed control,” said Philip W. Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory and governmental affairs.
“Glyphosate meets or exceeds all requirements for renewal under European law and regulation. The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence and the EU’s own regulatory agencies have declared glyphosate safe for use.
Dr. Miller said Monsanto joins European farmers and other users in expressing concern over the “recent rise of narrowly-focused politics of self-interest, where national or partisan political imperatives take precedence over facts, scientific understanding and the interests of its citizens. Monsanto urges the European Commission to present without further undue delays a proposal for a full renewal under the regulatory framework.”
Over the coming months, he said, Monsanto will be engaging with Member States and other stakeholders involved in this process to “understand their concerns, answer their questions and share more information about glyphosate’s long history of safe use. We look forward to productive conversations about glyphosate and the vital role it will play in sustainable agriculture for many years to come.”
For more on glyphosate, visit www.monsanto.com.