The vote comes as UK growers face the prospect of losing another important chemical from the toolbox, Diquat.
The European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed will consider the latest Commission proposal for re-licensing glyphosate in Brussels next Wednesday and Thursday.
This followed a vote by the European Parliament in April recommending the core ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup should be re-licensed but for only seven years instead of the originally proposed 15 and with new restrictions added in, including permitting application for professional use only.
Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands were among those who have opposed its re-application.
The Parliament’s position was partly guided by a report by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which concluded glyphosate was ’probably carcinogenic to humans’.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) subsequently published its own findings, concluding glyphosate was ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans’.
Leaks suggest the new Commission proposal will recommend licensing glyphosate for nine or 10 years, not 15, and allow a ban if a European Chemicals Agency study next year finds it hazardous.
The Commission is keen to secure a clear outcome in the Standing Committee, rather than be forced to push the approval through, itself, if the necessary qualified majority is not reached.
It is felt a compromise on the licensing period might therefore be required to gain sufficient support among member states.
Crop Protection Association chief executive Nick von Westenholz said it would be ‘worrying’ if glyphosate was given a re-approval for an arbitrary period of less than 15 years, when it had been ‘given a clear, positive opinion by EFSA’.
"There’s no legal provision for doing so," he said. Regulatory certainty is a fundamental principle of any modern economy and these sort of decisions create uncertainty for industry.
"It’s no surprise that there has been a stark reduction in European investment in crop protection R&D in recent years, sadly to the detriment of farmers and a safe supply of food.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said the union was ‘very concerned’ the Commission was also considering banning Diquat due to a negative EFSA report.
“With glyphosate seemingly also under pressure – the prospect of losing both glyphosate and Diquat would be very serious,” he said.
“As the main non-systemic desiccant on the market with no real alternatives, Diquat is a key part of the toolbox which would be missed by both horticulturalists and arable farmers for applications such as pre-harvest dessication of oilseed rape and haulm destruction in potatoes.”
"We are working hard with our European colleagues to lobby national Governments to urge the Commission to look at this again as we think there were significant evidence gaps.
"We are pleased the UK Government, as a co-rapporteur for Diquat is supportive but we’ve alerted our Swedish colleagues that their Government, as the other rapporteur, are not."
He added: "Our immense frustration in this is that when EU regulators ban crop protection materials they do not seem to consider the negative impacts on the competitive ability of European farmers especially when products banned in the EU remain widely used elsewhere in the world.
"The other key consideration that gets overlooked is that materials such as Diquat and glyphosate deliver clear environmental benefits in that they can help reduce GHG emissions from activities such as field cultivations and the drying of crops."