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Sunday 22 September 2019

EU extends approval for 'cancer link' weedkiller glyphosate

Demonstrators in front of the EU headquarters in Brussels (AP)
Demonstrators in front of the EU headquarters in Brussels (AP)

The European Union has approved a five-year extension of the use of the weedkiller glyphosate in a move that failed to satisfy environmentalists or farmers.

After a drawn-out process, the EU backed the extension with a qualified majority and beat a mid-December deadline when the current licence expires.

Environmentalists had hoped for an immediate ban as they claim the weedkiller, used in chemical giant Monsanto's popular Roundup herbicide, is linked to cancer.

Farmers, who say the substance is safe, had wanted a 15-year extension. EU nations long failed to find a compromise.

EU health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "When we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision-making."

The European Commission had initially proposed a licence extension of 10 years.

One official said 18 member states voted in favour, nine against and one abstained.

"The decision taken today by a narrow qualified majority of member states has locked the EU into another five years of toxic agriculture," said Green member of the European Parliament Bart Staes.

"This is a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment."

Environmentalists had been seeking to ban glyphosate, which the World Health Organisation's cancer agency said in 2015 is "probably carcinogenic to humans".

Banning glyphosate outright would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector as it is so widely used.

Despite welcoming the limited extension, the president of the EU's Copa-Cogeca farmer association, Pekka Pesonen, insisted glyphosate "should have been re-authorised for 15 years after it was given a positive assessment by both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency".


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