OVERSHADOWED by Thursday’s Brexit vote, European leaders this week will vote on an issue that will have huge ramifications for farmers within the European Union (EU) on whether to ban the use of the world’s most popular herbicide glyphosate.
Political delegates from the 28 individual nations of the EU will vote on the matter, which is administered by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU.
The push to ban the herbicide is based on safety concerns following a report from an arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that found glyphosate was a ‘probable’ carcinogen. Another department of WHO has since issued a contradictory report saying glyphosate is safe.
Both sides of the debate have raised questions about the impartiality of those conducting the reports, with proponents of the ban saying authors of the report saying glyphosate is safe have close links to the biotechnology sector.
The EC had proposed an extension of the licence of glyphosate for up to 15 years, a move which failed to win support.
Now member nations will vote on whether to extend glyphosate’s registration for an interim period of up to 18 months while further safety research is conducted or ban its use.
If no decision is reached by the end of June, glyphosate will be deregistered automatically.
Farmers at last week’s Cereals field day in Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom, the UK’s premier cropping industry event, said the threat of the ban was realistic.
“Initially we did not think it would get very far, but now there’s a real prospect there may be a ban on glyphosate,” said one grower who asked not to be named.
Central to the push for the ban gaining momentum has been the support for a stop of glyphosate sales by France, one of the EU’s most powerful nations.
French officials made a statement last week indicating they would be voting to ban glyphosate.
Farmers in England said the loss of glyphosate would limit their pre-emergent weed control options.
Most said they would be forced into more tillage and later sowing dates in order to manage weed burdens, with black grass nominated as the largest problem.
Early estimates suggest the decision could cost Monsanto, which has the licence for Roundup, the most popular glyphosate-based product, up to $A120 million in lost revenue.
For its part, Monsanto called on regulators to make the decision based on science.
“Further delays in this process represent a significant deviation from the EU regulatory framework and set a concerning precedent for other active substances,” said Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory and government affairs.
Gregor Heard travelled to Europe as guest of Syngenta as part of the Syngenta growth awards.