EU seeks short-term extension for glyphosate weedkiller | News | DW | 01.06.2016
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EU seeks short-term extension for glyphosate weedkiller

The European Commission has suggested a 12-18 month extension to the bloc-wide approval of glyphosate. Regulators say they need more time to rule out whether the controversial chemical causes cancer.

A temporary extension for glyphosate's EU approval was proposed Wednesday amid disagreements between several EU states over whether the widely used weedkiller is carcinogenic.

EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said the Commission would ask for "12 to 18 months" to "see which compromise we reach," adding that the dates would coincide with the timing required to complete the EU's research.

Andriukaitis said the EU's executive also plans to recommend limiting use of glyphosate in public parks, playgrounds and gardens as well as on pre-harvest crops.

"Our decisions should remain based on science, not on political convenience," he added.

Controversial herbicide

Glyphosate is an ingredient in Roundup, one of the world's most popular weedkillers, produced by the US firm Monsanto.

The EU had been planning to reapprove glyphosate for a further 15 years, but the proposal was scaled back to just seven years after opposition from Italy, France and the Netherlands. Germany has so far not taken a clear position on the chemical's EU approval as the country's two main governing parties have different views on the issue.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) said glyphosate "probably" causes cancer in humans, adding that there was "limited evidence" that the weedkiller was carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Germany protest

Activists have marched on Brussels and Berlin

But last week, a review carried out by experts from both the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet."

Campaigners urge caution

Several campaign groups, including Greenpeace, have called for the ingredient's outright ban.

"Whether the license is for 15, nine or two years doesn't change anything in the real world," said the environment group's Franziska Achterberg.

Green EU lawmaker Bart Staes said the EU's executive was "backing down" on glyphosate, despite "public mobilization and political opposition."

The European Commission will now propose a temporary extension to the approval, which expires on June 30, until conclusions from scientific research by the bloc becomes available.

EU member states will meet to discuss the Commission's new proposal on June 6 in Brussels.

If no decision is taken, products containing the chemical will have to be removed from the market.

mm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)