The European Commission has recommended glyphosate’s licence be renewed for five years following its failure to secure enough support for a 10-year renewal this week.
On Wednesday, 16 countries, including the UK, voted in favour of a 10-year licence, but German and Portuguese abstentions coupled with French opposition meant no ‘qualified majority’ could be reached.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ongoing talks about forming a Coalition Government with the Greens were thought to be behind the country’s refusal to take a position in the crunch vote.
The Commission’s latest proposal – a significant climbdown from its previous support for a 10-year renewal – said new information on glyphosate was being published ‘at an exceptionally high rate compared to other active substances.’
It went on: “Therefore possibilities of rapid future developments in science and technology should be taken into account when deciding on the length of the approval period of glyphosate, also bearing in mind the fact glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the Union.
“In light of these specificities… and bearing in mind the need to ensure a level of safety and protection consistent with the high level of protection sought within the Union, from a risk management perspective it is appropriate to provide for a renewal of the approval… for a period of five years, ensuring a priority re-assessment for glyphosate over other active substances.”
The news came as the European Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament announced it would start collecting signatures for the establishment of an inquiry committee on glyphosate.
The committee would be set up to ‘investigate the handling of the decision-making process’ for the proposed renewal of glyphosate’s licence.
Greens/EFA president Ska Keller said: “We have serious concerns about whether the rules have been respected during the decision-making process for glyphosate.
“The European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) need to ask themselves critical questions and explain why scientific studies demonstrating glyphosate is dangerous have been ignored.”
A group of MEPs, including the Greens, had previously written to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, alleging one of the studies ECHA relied on to reach its conclusion on glyphosate was ghost-written by the product’s manufacturer, Monsanto – a claim strongly denied by the company.
Mr Juncker responded with a robust defence of the EU regulatory system, saying he believed it protected humans and the environment.