Farm Ireland

Thursday 27 October 2016

Farm chemicals under renewed EU scrutiny

Published 05/07/2016 | 02:30

MEP Mairead McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers
MEP Mairead McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers

Weedkillers and pesticides facing license renewal in the coming months are expected the receive the same high levels of scrutiny as glyphosate, it has been warned.

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It comes as the European Commission was forced to step in and grant an 18-month extension to the license for glyphosate - agriculture's number one weedkiller - after EU countries failed to reach a qualified majority.

Mairead McGuinness MEP said it was causing huge uncertainty among farmers, particularly those who practice min-till.

"There will be other herbicides and pesticides coming up for license renewal and I'd expect similar scrutiny of them," said Ms McGuinness.

"The ministers were not prepared to collectively re-license and in the end because the deadline loomed of June 30 the Commission was obliged to make a decision so there wouldn't be huge disruption and chaos.

"In my view how you get the balance right is making sure those using the chemicals are trained, which farmers are, constantly look at the new data and be prepared to take advice on board."

If the license had not been issued by the deadline all products including glyphosate, a key ingredient in many weedkillers including Monsanto's Roundup, would have had to be phased out.

Some 20 EU countries, including Ireland, had voted in favour of reauthorising glyphosate but under EU voting rules a 'qualified' majority of 55pc of countries that make up 65pc of the EU's population is required.

The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis confirmed the glyphosate license would be extended for 18 months.

After intensive lobbying from environmental groups, the Commission had moved to replace a previous proposal to renew it for up to 15 years with a suggested 12 to 18 month extension to allow further scientific studies take place.

The European Chemicals Agency is due to complete a report on the toxicity and health impact of glyphosate.

There has been conflicting advice with the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying it as "probably carcinogenic to humans".

However, the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA) found it was "unlikely" to be carcinogenic and this was echoed by a joint United Nations/WHO committee.

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