France can be the deciding factor on less use of glyphosate

agriculture, tractor spraying pesticides on field farm

France appears to hold the final trump card regarding whether or not to continue using glyphosate. For the time being, there is not a sufficient majority within the EU for a complete ban on use in agriculture and horticulture, but possibly for 'the French variant' of a major restriction.

There is also insufficient majority for a ten-year extension of the operating permit. 

Comparative research into the voting behavior of the 27 EU countries shows that 18 of the 27 Member States agreed to the European proposal for extension, including some technical restrictions. This Commission proposal also makes it possible for EU countries to impose their own additional conditions. These 18 countries are indeed more than the required 15 countries (=55%), but together they do not reach the required 65% of the number of EU inhabitants, but only 55,03%.

There were six countries that abstained last Friday: France, Germany, Bulgaria, Belgium, Malta and the Netherlands, together accounting for 41.96 percent of the EU population. Only three countries (Croatia, Austria and Luxembourg) voted outright against the Commission proposal (3.01 percent).

This means that even if all six 'abstainers' were to vote against, the nine together would not reach the population of 65 percent, nor the required 15 countries. This means that a glyphosate blockade in the EU is out of the picture for the time being, unless new scientific evidence about its harmfulness emerges in the coming years.

In addition, a switch of four of the 'abstainers' (Netherlands, Malta, Belgium, Bulgaria) to the pro camp would still not help the Commission proposal reach the required 65 percent. Together, these four relatively small countries do not reach the missing 9.97% of inhabitants. Adema cannot therefore help the opponents to gain a majority. Only France (15%) and Germany (18.5%) are each large enough to help the proposal gain a majority.

A switch from 'abstention' to 'in favor' cannot be expected from Germany because the German traffic light coalition is too divided internally about it. This is a similar situation as in Belgium and the Netherlands: they also have substantive arguments for abstaining.

France, on the other hand, has made it clear in recent years that agriculture will still need glyphosate for the time being, but to a very limited extent. The French themselves already apply the regulation that a farmer may not use more than so many kilos per hectare, and then only in ecologically non-vulnerable areas. Moreover, France considers a new authorization period of ten years too long and wants limited use for a maximum of seven years.

Chairman Pascal Canfin (Renew) of the European Parliament's envi-environment committee called on Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last weekend to withdraw the 'unacceptable proposal' and to make adjustments. The French liberal Canfin is considered a loyal ally of the liberal En Marche party of French President Macron. 

A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed on Friday that a "dialogue" could still take place between member states to reach a compromise.