European Union finally grants last-minute, five-year license to glyphosate

Reuters

European Union countries broke months of deadlock on Monday when they voted to renew the licence for the controversial weedkiller glyphosate for five years after heavyweight Germany surprisingly voted in favour despite health concerns.

The European Commission says 18 countries backed its proposed five-year extension, with nine voting against and one abstaining. Although, Angela Merkel, the chancellor, has been unable to form a coalition government after the country's recent election, the caretaker government swung its support in favor of the weed killer.

Environmentalists had hoped for an immediate ban as they claim the weedkiller, used in chemical giant Monsanto's popular Roundup herbicide, is linked to cancer.

The Commission plan is based on a flawed health risk assessment of glyphosate, which states there is insufficient evidence of a cancer link, despite the WHO's classification of the weedkiller as a probable cause of cancer.

"The decision taken today by a narrow qualified majority of member states has locked the EU into another five years of toxic agriculture", said Green member of the European Parliament Bart Staes.

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Reacting to the news, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: "The people who are supposed to protect us from risky pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them".

Pekka Pesonen, the Secretary General of Copa-Cogeca, a body that represents farmers and cooperatives in the European Union, welcomes the decision to allow use of the weedkiller.

Banning glyphosate outright would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector, since it is so widely used.

However, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, of the Social Democrats who had initially refused to consider renewing their coalition with Merkel, said Agricultural Minister Christian Schmidt of the Merkel-allied CSU party had gone against her orders.

"Anyone who is interested in developing trust between two parties can not behave that way", she said.

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