Scientist says it’s time for pesticide-free agriculture
The European Union voted in late November to renew its license for glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, for another five years.
The final vote was 18 EU member states voting in favor of renewing the license with nine voting against and one abstaining.
France and Germany split over the vote with France leading the opposition. French President Emmanuel Macron said after the decision was announced that he had asked government officials to draw up a plan for banning the herbicide, glyphosate, in his country within three years.
Italy and Austria have also indicated they may ban the herbicide.
Germany, which had abstained in a previous vote on the issue, appeared to help sway the outcome of the vote. The country’s agriculture minister Christian Schmidt voted in favor of the renewed license in spite of opposition from the environment minister Barbara Hendricks.
The renewal process frustrated both glyphosate supporters and opponents. Agrochemical companies such as Monsanto criticized the review process, saying it was driven more by politics than science. The companies had wanted glyphosate renewed for another 15 years, which is the normal period for such products.
The Glyphosate Task Force, an industry group that includes Monsanto and Syngenta, said in a statement that it was “profoundly disappointed at the outcome of today’s meeting whereby member states categorically ignored scientific advice.” The group added that it believed the decision was “not related to any scientific assessment and mainly influenced by public perception and driven by politics.”
On the other side, Angeliki Lysimachou, an environmental toxicologist at the advocacy group Pesticide Action Network Europe, criticized the renewed license for glyphosate. “This decision reveals once again the sad truth that governments are keener to protect the highly profitable pesticide industry than the health of their people and the environment,” she said.
More than one million EU citizens have signed a petition to ban glyphosate.
Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, a senior researcher at ETH Zurich’s Institute of Integrative Biology in Switzerland, said the controversy over glyphosate underscores the need for a pesticide-free agriculture.
“Now is the time to step off this pesticide treadmill,” she wrote in an opinion piece. “We must bundle all our capacities and powers into pushing for the transformation of all European agriculture into a poison-free system. The era of poisoning our water, soils and foods must come to an end. We must build coalitions across many sectors and mobilize everybody toward this goal. This includes the ‘conventional’ farmers who use these pesticides.”
Sources: New York Times