EU launches consultations on glyphosate

Published 12 October 2021

Crops Science and technology
A sprayer uses glyphosate with a wild flower field margin in the foreground

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have launched parallel scientific consultations on glyphosate, as EU authorities prepare to decide on whether to reauthorise the product for use once the current authorisation expires in 2022.

Once the consultations close, the AGG and ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) will consider the comments made and data submitted on the Harmonised Classification and Labelling report. These considerations will be taken into account when RAC develops its opinion on the classification of glyphosate.

ECHA will gather feedback on the Harmonised Classification and Labelling report on glyphosate.

EFSA is consulting on the Renewal Assessment Report, and both consultations will be open for 60 days.

Impact on GB regulation

NFU senior regulatory affairs adviser Dr Chris Hartfield said: “As a result of leaving the EU, the GB expiry date for the approval of use of glyphosate was extended to 15 December 2025. We are watching how this renewal process unfolds in the EU with interest, and recent work has shown a significant evidence-based step forward.”

As Dr Hartfield has explained previously, "Glyphosate reduces the need to use other herbicides, helps to protect soil and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for ploughing. It also enables British farmers to grow crops that help produce safe, affordable and high-quality British food.”

Glyphosate classification

Initial scientific evaluations were prepared by the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG), which comprises national competent authorities in France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The classification of chemicals is based solely on the hazardous properties of a substance and does not take into account the use or likelihood of exposure to the substance.

Exposure is considered as part of the risk assessment of pesticide active substances, which is a process led by EFSA.

Long-lasting effects

Glyphosate currently has a harmonised classification as causing serious eye damage and as toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects, prior to and following the assessment by ECHA in 2017.

Classification for germ cell mutagenicity, carcinogenicity or reproductive toxicity was not considered to be necessary at that time.

The initial scientific evaluation from the AGG also does not recommend a change to this existing classification.

The European Commission granted a five-year approval for glyphosate in 2017. It is currently approved for use in the EU until 15 December 2022.

Peer review

EFSA will take the outcome of the ECHA’s RAC opinion on the classification of glyphosate into account in its peer review and is expected to release the results of its work in the second half of 2022.

The European Commission, together with risk managers from the 27 EU Member States, will then decide whether to renew the approval of glyphosate for use in the EU.

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