The fate of Monsanto's flagship herbicide in the European Union (EU) remains unclear. Earlier this week, the standing Committee on Plants, Animals Food and Feed declined to extend authorization for glyphosate sales in the region. The sales license is set to expire at the end of this month.
Concerns about potential impacts of the widely used herbicide on human health are the main driver of the controversy. In April 2015, the World Health Organization's cancer experts found that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans." The European Food Safety Agency later found that glyphosate was not "likely" to increase cancer risk, although questions have been raised about the methodology used by the agency to reach this conclusion.
Other impacts of the herbicide on both human and environmental health continue to emerge, and many public interest groups are pressing for Monsanto's RoundUp and related glyphosate products to be pulled off the shelf.
After failing to gain approval earlier in the spring for a 15-year renewal for glyphosate use, the European Commission proposed a temporary 12-18 month extension of authorization, keeping the products on the market while health authorities re-examine evidence of health and environmental harms. The proposal also included new restrictions on glyphosate use in public parks, playgrounds and gardens.
Their proposal failed to gain the support needed to pass. Representatives from several countries — including Germany, France and Italy — abstained from the vote, which means the required representation from 65 percent of EU's population was not met.
The issue is expected to go to an appeals committee the week of June 20. If no agreement is reached in these discussions, the sales license will expire on June 30 — and Monsanto's product will be withdrawn from the European market over the next six months.
Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr