Glyphosate: the latest developments

Rows continue to rage in the EU institutions about the future licensing of glyphosate. CLA’s Fraser McAuley explains the latest developments and how CLA working with our sister organisation the European Landowners Organisation continues to make the case for science over politics in this crucial debate.

This week saw the European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI) vote, in a non-binding resolution, that the use of glyphosate in the EU should be ceased within three years. It’s a disappointing but predictable development. The ENVI Committee has been heavily lobbied by all sides in this long running debate about the extent to which glyphosate is a carcinogen and the risk of its use in crop protection to human health.

This latest vote going this way is not in itself conclusive but it is badly timed. The CLA and ELO continue to make the case to MEPs about the importance of sticking to the advice of the EU expert agencies and allow the continued use of this vital product. 

The Parliament does not call the shots on this, but it has a big influence. The real decision is made by the delegates from the different Member States and next week the relevant Standing Committee meets to vote on extending the licence. The UK Government position on this remains sound, in part because the CLA and others continue to make the case strongly to our representatives, but there is hard opposition to relicensing from others, the French government in particular.  The main worry is the number of countries that have gone quiet in recent months, they could come out against at the last minute or simply abstain. Both of these outcomes could lead to the product losing its licence by the end of the year.

For anyone hoping that Brexit might save us from this political bureaucratic mess, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Firstly, because any restrictions would likely come into force before the UK leaves the EU. And more importantly, any prohibition on glyphosate use would apply to any products that we might want to export to the EU after Brexit anyway. So, the next few weeks and months really are a critical moment, the outcomes are finely balanced and we have to prepare for all eventualities.