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article imageEU delays glyphosate decision

By Tim Sandle     Mar 21, 2016 in Environment
The European Union has delayed any decision about extending the license that permits the use of the controversial weedkiller glyphosate. This is because of a potential cancer risk.
Digital Journal recently ran a report into glyphosate as part of the Essential Science series. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in several herbicides, and it is found in the most commonly used herbicides worldwide. Some scientists have long seen, together with environmental groups, that traces of the chemical can be found in everyday foods. Such foods include soybeans, corn, milk and eggs. If present at high levels, the chemical could potentially cause harm. The counter-argument is that glyphosate is biologically degraded over time by soil microorganisms. The breakdown products are not regarded as harmful to human health.
As part of the on-going debate, the European Union has postponed any decision to give further approval for glyphosate-based chemicals to be used in member states. On the table is a request to approve the chemical for a further 15-year period. The chemical was first approved during the 1970s, as part of the formula for the Monsanto herbicide called ‘Roundup.’
The decision to postpone use came after two days of discussion by the European Commission and scientific experts. Postponement came about because a majority decision for approval could not be reached. The matter will be discussed again later in 2016 provided a decision is reached by the end of June, which is when the current license for glyphosate-based chemicals expires.
The decision not to approve the chemical came as a surprise to some, since the European Food Safety Agency, in November 2015, indicated that the chemical was “unlikely” to cause cancer.
Commenting on the decision to postpone, Alice Jay, director for the Avaaz campaign group, told The Guardian: “Despite the U.K. and the European Commission lining up to protect Monsanto’s interests, governments across Europe have refused to treat their people as lab-rats and approve a new licence for glyphosate.”
Monsanto Europe, who continue manufacture glyphosate-based materials for its genetically modified crops, said: “We expect this process to move forward in the coming weeks and that a vote of member states will take place in due course.”
The committee is expected to reconvene in May 2016.
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