Farmers will have access to glyphosate following EU member states’ vote to renew the herbicide’s licence for five years.
After months of deadlock a qualified majority in favour of the proposal has finally been reached. Eighteen were in favour, nine voted against and one - Portugal - abstained).
NFU vice president and Essex grower Guy Smith said: "While it is good news that farmers and growers will be able to continue using glyphosate for another five years the fact remains that there is absolutely no regulatory reason why it should not have been reauthorised for 15 years as was originally proposed.
"Today’s (November 27) decision will be of some comfort to farmers such as myself who have watched with growing concern as what should have been a straight forward decision has become a political football.
Crop Protection Association chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said: “The loss of glyphosate would have caused significant damage to the economy, the environment and the agricultural sector.
“British farmers will be relieved that this vital tool will continue to be available to them, and they will be able to continue to do what they do best, providing us with safe, healthy, affordable food.”
Germany voted in favour of re-approval, having previously abstained. This ensured the qualified majority for approval. Germany joined Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania, who had also previously abstained.
EU Health and Food Safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "Today’s vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making."
Today’s vote shows that when we all want and put effort in it, we are able to accept and to share our collective responsibility in decision making.#glyphosate— Vytenis Andriukaitis (@V_Andriukaitis)
Senior MEP Anthea McIntyre welcomed the decision, saying ‘a de facto ban on glyphosate would have been a shocking and unscientific backward step’.
"Farmers would have had to fall back on mechanical weed control. That would mean 25 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and a significant impact on farm bird life - including skylarks, partridge, lapwing,” she said.
The approval came just a few days before the current licence expires on December 15.
Safety concerns over glyphosate, commonly sold under the brand name Roundup, arose after a World Health Organisation report labelled it a suspected carcinogen; but hundreds of separate, peer-reviewed studies have shown this not to be the case.
Earlier this month, a further independent and long-term study from the National Cancer Institute found no association between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Campaigners were obviously disappointed with the Commission’s decision, with Friends of the Earth calling it a ’backward step for health and the environment’.
Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett added: “The weight of scientific evidence suggesting glyphosate is not safe, including evidence from internal Monsanto papers, is increasing all the time.
“The chronic uncertainty that has so delayed a decision by the EU should not stop Michael Gove doing things that everyone agrees on, namely banning the spraying of glyphosate on crops immediately pre-harvest and banning glyphosate use in public places like parks, streets and playgrounds, in line with the European Parliament’s and the Commission’s advice.”