No decision reached on temporary extension to EU glyphosate renewal

First published: 10 November 2022

An image of glyphosate sprayer on a field

The European Commission’s proposal to extend the December 2022 expiry date on the current active substance approval for glyphosate has been blocked by several EU member states.

Delays to the EU renewal assessment process means the approval will not be completed before the current EU active substance approval for glyphosate expires on the 15 December 2022 (the GB expiry date is 15 December 2025). 

The Commission proposed to extend this expiry date by one year – a common regulatory practice. When put to the vote, this extension was backed by the majority of member states, however opposition by Luxembourg, Malta and Croatia, and the abstention of France, Germany, and Slovenia effectively blocked the proposal being adopted.

The loss of glyphosate would cause huge problems for farming.

Ongoing controversy

Commenting on these events, the NFU’s senior regulatory affairs adviser Dr Chris Hartfield said, “Reviews of all the available and latest evidence by regulatory scientific experts in the EU and across the world have confirmed that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.

“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 European farmers to grow crops that help produce safe, affordable and high-quality food.”

NFU science and regulatory affairs adviser Dr Chris Hartfield

“Despite this science sense, the recent blocking by EU countries of the Commission’s proposal to extend glyphosate’s authorisation for one year, to enable proper completion of the glyphosate renewal process, shows how easily popular opinion and politics can trump the evidence in Brussels.

“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 European farmers to grow crops that help produce safe, affordable and high-quality food.”

However, there has been ongoing controversy regarding the use of glyphosate, stemming from public concerns about safety and the resulting politicization of an assessment process intended to be science and evidence-based.

Report deems glyphosate not carcinogenic

Earlier in the year, the AGG (The Assessment Group on Glyphosate) which comprises of four EU member states, produced a draft assessment of glyphosate which was then reviewed by the ECHA's (European Chemicals Agency) Committee for Risk Assessment.

Read: We've provided a breakdown of the conclusions of the report.

Most significantly, the committee, like many other expert regulatory bodies worldwide, found that the available scientific evidence showed it was not justified to classify glyphosate as a carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substance.

This finding was consistent with the committee’s 2017 evaluation and the recent opinions of the four Member States assessing glyphosate.

The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and scientific experts appointed by the 27 EU Member States are to continue the peer review process and discuss the evidence in a series of expert meetings, due to conclude by July 2023.

Next steps in Brussels

In the meantime, the Commission will submit the file to the Appeal Committee, which meets on 15 November. Should there be no majority decision there, the proposal will continue to pass to the College of Commissioners, which could approve the rules on its own.


 

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