European Union votes to extend controversial glyphosate license for five more years

The Commission, the European Union's executive, said in a statement that 18 countries had backed its proposal to renew the chemical's licence.

After months of indecisive votes among the 28 member states in Brussels, Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to form a new coalition after a September election, came off the fence after abstaining in previous meetings.

Under EU rules, 16 favourable votes are needed as a "qualified majority" for renewal before authorisation expires on December 15.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to Monday's vote by saying he would do whatever necessary to ensure the weed killer is banned in his country within three years.

Following the decision, Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that the vote showed that "when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making".

A petition by 1.3 million European Union citizens called for glyphosate to be banned after the herbicide was declared "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015.

Glyphosate is used in weed-killing products such as Monsanto's Roundup.

He pointed out that the Commission had originally proposed a 10-year renewal and said that the reduced licence offered "five years in which we will work to look for alternatives".

"The people who are supposed to protect us from unsafe pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them", Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said. Pekka Pesonen, president of the Copa-Cogeca farmer group, welcomed the limited extension but insisted that glyphosate "should have been reauthorized for 15 years after it was given a positive assessment by both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency".

The Green party called it "a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment".

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

The decision has been criticized by the Germany-based Glyphosate Task Force, which stated that the approval "categorically ignored scientific advice (and was) mainly influenced by public opinion and driven by politics", according to Nature News.

Germany voted for the extension over the objection of Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, who said she had told Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt by phone Monday that she was against it.


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