Worth knowing: EU debates glyphosate licencing

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

As of October, the European Union continues their ongoing debate regarding banning the use of glyphosate. It is used to kill weeds threatening crop yields, and is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
Glyphosate usage

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

As of October, the European Union continues their ongoing debate regarding banning the use of glyphosate. It is used to kill weeds threatening crop yields, and is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
Glyphosate usage
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world since Monsanto patented it in 1974. Glyphosate-tolerant crops such as alfalfa and sugar beets were
first engineered in 2005 and 2008, according to Environmental Sciences Europe (ESE).
Regarding the amounts used since 1974, ESE notes, “… in the U.S., over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate active ingredient have been applied, or 19% of estimated global use of glyphosate (8.6 billion kilograms). Globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called ‘Roundup Ready,’ genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996. Two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years. The corresponding share globally is 72%. In 2014, farmers sprayed enough glyphosate to apply ~1.0 kg/ha (0.8 pound/acre) on every hectare of U.S.-cultivated cropland and nearly 0.53 kg/ha (0.47 pounds/acre) on all cropland worldwide.”
What concerns?
Residues are found not only in soil, water, human and animal food, but also
in humans. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate a probable carcinogen to humans.
In 2016, Belgium’s ERUACTIV website explained, “a worrying three-quarters of the German population have… been contaminated by the controversial herbicide.” Residue was discovered in 99.6% of the 2,009 people studied. Children living on farms had the highest levels.
Greenpeace also claims Roundup is toxic to human health.
But many organizations contest such concerns raised by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. For instance, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health questions the correlation between cancer and glyphosate. They cite research results and state, “The overall weight of
evidence from the genetic toxicology data supports a conclusion that glyphosate (including GBFs and AMPA) does not pose a genotoxic hazard and therefore, should not be considered support for the classification of glyphosate as a genotoxic carcinogen.”
EU: public concern vs. political indecision
With increasing concern throughout the world regarding glyphosate and animal (including human) health, the EU is an interesting symbol of the contentious nature of the herbicide’s ongoing use. Because December 15, 2017 represents the expiration of the chemical’s EU a decision is immenent: a vote was held November 6.
“The people’s will” appears clear: on October 24, a non-binding resolution
was passed by the European Parliament to ban glyphosate. On October 25, the European Commission (EC; the EU’s executive arm) intended to vote to reissue the licence for ten years – but after the elected officials’ vote, the EC dropped their ten-year extension. Likely the EC was influenced also by a petition signed by more than 1.3 million EU citizens, asking the EU to ban glyphosate.
Politics, politics
With December 15 looming, the EC is considering a renewal of 5-7 years. That’s preferable to ten years, but it won’t satisfy concerns, particularly as vested interests lead the powerful lobbyists for the status quo.
EU farmers and Monsanto are lobbying for a 15-year licence extension.“Lobbying” includes threats of being taken to court, according to The Guardian newspaper.
As the Chemical and Engineering News magazine reports, “‘Without renewal, our affordable food supplies and agricultural conservation will be thrown into jeopardy,” says Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of Copa and Cogeca, groups that represent European farmers and agricultural co-ops.”
As the drama unfolds, we can bet our North American (including Pontiac’s) farmers, farmers’ unions, and Monsanto are keenly observing how the EU votes. Are we ready for real agricultural change? Sadly, I doubt it.