Renewal of glyphosate in the EU hangs in the balance as deadline looms

20 October 2023 | Muriel Cozier

Uncertainty over glyphosate is hitting the bottom line.

The use of glyphosate beyond the end of 2023 is yet to be decided; as a vote by Member States in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed did not reach a ‘qualified majority’ to adopt or reject a proposal to renew glyphosate use for the next ten years.

This outcome means that the proposal, based on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)’s conclusion that there were ‘no critical areas of concern’ in relation to the substance, will be submitted to the Appeal Committee. With the current approval to use glyphosate due to expire on 15 December, the Appeal Committee is set to vote in the first half of November.

The Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG), which represents leading chemical producers seeking routine renewal of the substance, said: ‘The Glyphosate Renewal Group remains confident that the renewal of the approval of glyphosate will ultimately be granted, as the proposal builds on the strong science-based conclusions of the competent authorities including the the EFSA, that did not find any critical area of concern.’

Earlier this year the GRG submitted a dossier, including more than 1,500 studies supporting the safety of glyphosate, to the EFSA.

Also seeking renewal of glyphosate use, Copa-Cogeca, which represents farmers and agri-cooperatives in the EU, said in statement: ‘Member States will be confronted with the following reality: there is no alternative to this herbicide, and without it many agricultural practices, particularly soil conservation, will be made complex and farmers will find themselves destitute.’

Backing this position, the GRG added: ‘The re-approval of glyphosate would allow farmers to keep glyphosate-based products in their toolbox as part of their integrated weed management practices, enabling them to control weeds effectively and contributing to a more secure European food supply.’

The uncertainty over glyphosate is also hitting the bottom line, with Bayer announcing in August that its revised guidance for 2023 was ‘mainly due to a significant further decline in sales of glyphosate-based products at the Cropscience Division.’

Welcoming the outcome of the vote, Gergely Simon, Senior Policy Officer at Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe said ‘This is an important signal. It goes right to the concerns of a majority of Europeans about the impact of pesticides on health and environment. A wide range of independent scientists have expressed their concerns and their studies show serious negative effects of glyphosate use.’

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