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European ministers once again failed to make a decision on the whether to re-license the herbicide Glyphosate in the EU.  At a meeting last week (9 November), key countries such as France & Italy voted against the Commission’s proposal for a 5 year renewal. Ireland and 13 other countries supported the Commission, however they did not reach the required majority.

With only five weeks to go before the current glyphosate authorisation expires (on 15 December), a decision must now be taken within an appeal committee, set for the 27/28 November. However, expectations are low, as Member States are likely to continue to vote along the same lines as they have done at each vote held over the last year. There have been many attempts to break the deadlock including proposals to reduce the reauthorisation period from the standard 15 years to the current 5 years.

Member States have come under significant public pressure, particularly following a European citizens’ initiative calling for a ban on the chemical which was signed by 1.3 million people. In addition, the European Parliament has voted for the herbicide to be phased out entirely within five years.

ICOS has been following this debate with increasing alarm due to the potential impact for grain farmers. Glyphosate is also a key tool needed by dairy farmers to prepare pasture land for reseeding for example. Removing glyphosate would only serve to threaten farm income through the need to buy costly alternatives; it could see an increased dependence on imported feed, and it would limit farmer’s ability to deliver public goods such as maintaining biodiversity-rich hedgerows.

We therefore call on national governments, together with MEPs, to give their support for the re-approval, which is justified on the basis of the overwhelming scientific evidence confirming its safety for humans and the environment. Ignoring this evidence, in favour of unscientific, political arguments sets a dangerous precedent for future re-approvals, damages the credibility of the European regulatory system as well as severely jeopardises the quality and competitiveness of Irish and European Agriculture.

Alison Graham

European Affairs Executive