Germany thwarts France's EU veto of weed killer

Reuters
European Union countries approved on Monday the use of glyphosate, a weed killer, for the next five years after a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.
Reuters

European Union countries approved on Monday the use of glyphosate, a weed killer, for the next five years after a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

Diplomats said Germany swung the vote — after abstaining in previous meetings — to oppose France, its key EU partner, which wanted a shorter licence extension.

The European Commission said 18 countries had backed its proposal to renew the chemical’s licence, with nine voting against and one abstaining, declaring this to be a “positive opinion”.

Europe has been wrestling for the past two years over what to do with the chemical, a key ingredient in agrochemical giant Monsanto’s top-selling Roundup, whose licence was set to expire on December 15.

The chemical has been used by farmers for more than 40 years, but its safety was cast in doubt when a World Health Organization agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded in 2015 that it probably caused cancer.

The EU agreed to roll over the licence for 18 months pending the results of a study by the European Chemicals Agency, which said in March this year that there was no evidence linking glyphosate to cancer in humans.

Protest groups, however, seized on the IARC report, questioned the science in other studies and complained about the influence of big business.

In theory, the commission could have pushed through a licence extension, but it said it wanted governments to make the call on an issue that had become so politically charged. After a series of indecisive votes, they finally produced a clear majority in favour of the commission’s proposal.

Germany, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, which had abstained previously, threw their support behind glyphosate, paving the way for the continued use of the chemical.


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