Campaigning MEP Julie Girling today welcomed a landmark scientific decision that the widely-used herbicide glyphosate should NOT be classified as a carcinogen.
She spoke out after the European Chemicals Agency’s Risk Assessment Committee published its conclusions following a comprehensive review of the weed-killing agent’s safety.
The opinion follows over a year of debate over glyphosate’s future in the EU, with many environmental groups calling for it to be banned due to its alleged carcinogenic properties.
After granting only a limited extension last year to glyphosate’s license for use, the EU Commission sought greater scientific clarity by asking the agency to draw up a definitive classification for glyphosate.
Mrs Girling, Conservative Spokesman on the Environment and Public Health, and also a member of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, hailed the opinion as “A means to end once and for all the hysteria and start working on the basis of robust scientific evidence”.
She said” “This decision confirms what the EU and other scientific bodies have been saying since this debate began in 2015. It represents the first step in restoring certainty for farmers, so that they can continue responsibly using this important substance to provide us with safe and nutritious food.”
“I hope that, with positive opinions from the agency and also the European Food Safety Authority, a full renewal of glyphosate’s authorisation is only a matter of time.”
The Commission must now take into account the newly agreed classification when next deciding on the renewal of the approval of glyphosate.
Glyphosate, originally marketed under the trade name “Roundup”, now accounts for around 25% of the global herbicide market. In the EU, glyphosate-based herbicides are used for weed control for a wide range of crops including cereals, oilseed rape, maize, beans and sugar beet. Several European countries, including Germany, use glyphosate herbicides on almost half of their total crop area.
Glyphosate products are also widely used by gardeners and for weed control in forestry and aquatic environments. More than 300 glyphosate herbicides from more than 40 different companies are currently registered for sale in Europe, many of which are available in gardening and hardware stores.
A report last year by ADAS, the UK’s largest agricultural consultancy, estimated a total ban on glyphosate would reduce UK production of winter wheat and winter barley by 12 per cent and oilseed rape by 10 per cent, costing the industry €633 million a year.
The RSPB cites glyphosate as key to controlling bracken and rushes, while the chemical is widely used to control weeds on airport runways and railway lines.
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