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EU deadlock on controversial Glyphosate weed-killer licence renewal

Malta votes with eight other EU member states to block Commission proposal to renew controversial Monsanto weed-killer licence for five years

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
9 November 2017, 1:00pm
Glyphosate, commonly known by its Monsanto brand name Roundup, is very effective in killing weeds, but has been linked to health concerns, including cancer
Glyphosate, commonly known by its Monsanto brand name Roundup, is very effective in killing weeds, but has been linked to health concerns, including cancer
European Union countries, Malta included, who called for a ban on the controversial weed-killer glyphosate, have prolonged a deadlock on a bid from Brussels to renew the licence for the herbicide.

The EU on Thursday voted on whether to renew a five-year licence for the use of the common herbicide, but failed to reach a consensus.

The proposal from the European Commission failed to a reach a qualified majority, meaning the decision has again been postponed. The current license is due to expire on December 15, but there is an 18-month grace period.

Fourteen countries voted in favour of the renewal, nine – Malta included – against, while five, including Germany, abstained from voting. The proposal will now be referred to an appeal committee, or alternatively the Commission could draw up a new proposal to be voted upon.

A qualified majority requires two conditions be met: that 55% of EU countries vote in favour, and that the proposal is supported by countries representing at least 65% of the total EU population.

France, one of the heavyweights to vote down the proposal, said it was only in favour of renewing the license for three years.

Glyphosate, commonly known by its Monsanto brand name Roundup, is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The chemical is very effective in killing weeds, but has been linked to health concerns, including cancer.

Martin Galea De Giovanni, director of Friends of the Earth Malta however said that this was yet another positive development following years of campaigning since tests carried out by Friends of the Earth Malta in 2013 showed that traces of the weed killer glyphosate were found in nine out of 10 people tested.

“Following a previous vote in 2016 where Malta was the only country who voted against the renewal, it is very reassuring to note that there are now eight other European countries backing the ban, with another five abstaining.

“This announcement shows responsibility from government’s side as it chose to listen to the concerns of experts and individuals who have demanded that our fields, streets and gardens would be free from this risky weed killer.”

Last month the European Parliament voted for glyphosate to be banned by 2022 amid fears it causes cancer.

In June 2016, the EU’s previous 15-year license expired, and an 18-month extension was granted. Europe’s main farmers union, the Copa-Cogeca, had said there was no alternative but to renew the license if the continent wants to maintain farm yields.

Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Overwhelming public pressure is paying off, with a clear lack of political support to extend the licence for glyphosate. This weed-killer locks in reckless industrial farming, damages nature and probably causes cancer. When the final decision comes around, there’s only one responsible option – take it off the market immediately, and support farmers to help them get off the chemical treadmill.”

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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