Brussels now decides itself on the use of glyphosate

agriculture, tractor spraying pesticides on field farm

The European Commission must soon make its own decision on extending the use of the weedkiller glyphosate in European agriculture. There was again no qualified majority in favor of extended use in the Scopaff appeals committee on Thursday. Brussels wants to allow the drug for another ten years, but did not receive sufficient support for this in October. 

The Commission must make a decision before December 15. The proposal already includes a provision that farmers must take additional measures to prevent the pesticide from blowing away, the so-called drift. The EU member states can also decide for themselves whether to impose a complete or partial ban in their country: that is their own political responsibility.

According to critics, glyphosate is controversial because there is still uncertainty about the risk to public health and the loss of biodiversity. According to critics, the favorable assessment of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also leaves much to be desired. 

It cannot be ruled out that Brussels will make some minor adjustments, partly because next week the agriculture ministers of the 27 EU countries and the full European Parliament will meet on a number of tricky Green Deal issues. Glyphosate is one of them.

A number of influential agricultural countries, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, again abstained from consent on Thursday. A few years ago, French President Macron had advocated a ban, but subsequently agreed to conditional use. France could help a EU proposal gain a majority (and the much-desired political-administrative coverage).

Discussions are still taking place behind the scenes about this so-called 'French variant'. This means that the extension is limited to five or seven years, and that glyphosate use is linked to a maximum of so many kilos per hectare. The European Commission's proposal already contains provisions that the EU countries can add additional regulations for glyphosate use, such as use in or near natural habitats.

According to Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks), the EFSA assessment shows that there are gaps in the available data when it comes to the impact on people and animals. And that there are indeed risks associated with different forms of use. “Then you cannot simply proceed with approval,” says Eickhout. 

The outgoing Dutch LNV Minister Piet Adema previously announced that he/the Netherlands will immediately use the option of a national ban if new (scientific/medical) research shows that there are dangers to people's health.