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Sunday 23 July 2017

Irish group joins Europe-wide campaign to ban glyphosates

Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller atomizers displayed for sale. Photo: Reuters
Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller atomizers displayed for sale. Photo: Reuters

There are growing calls in Ireland to ban controversial weedkiller glyphosate.

Irish campaign group Uplift is hoping to get 9,000 people to sign an EU-wide petition to ban the chemical, which a World Health Organisation body has said "probably" causes cancer.

That finding is disputed by the EU's food safety and chemicals agencies, which say it is unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans.

The contradictory research led to a blazing row last year over the renewal of glyphosate's EU licence, with the European Commission temporarily extending it until the end of 2017.

Ireland has the second-highest levels of glyphosate in surface water, after Sweden, according to EFSA, which also detected the chemical in Irish ground water and drinking water. Earlier this year, a group of NGOs launched a special EU-wide petition, known as a European Citizens' Initiative, to ban glyphosate, which needs a million signatures spread across at least seven EU countries to force the Commission to act.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, has already been partially banned in France and the Netherlands, and the Commission has suggested minimising its use in public places and before harvest time.

"Glyphosate is causing untold damage to our health, environment and wildlife, including bees," said Uplift executive director Siobhán O'Donoghue. "Uplift members refuse to stand by and let companies such as Monsanto continue to control government policy and thinking. We have a chance to finally get glyphosate banned at EU level."

But the Irish Farmers' Association says the issue is being used as a "political football", while farmers have complained that there are no viable alternatives to aid weed control.


The glyphosate row has also fed into a draft rule change designed to promote the use of organic fertilisers across the EU.

Meanwhile, EU negotiators are still struggling to agree a draft law to boost organic farming, three years after the European Commission made its original proposal.

And last week, the EU introduced an electronic certification system for organic imports to help cut down on fraud, following fake organic food scandals in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

The move follows concerns raised by EU auditors in 2012 about the consistency of import checks across the bloc.

"Our commitment to ­stringent certification and ­inspection measures is an ­important component in the EU's food safety standards," said agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan.


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