The European Commission is set to debate the re-authorisation of the world’s most commonly used herbicide, glyphosate the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup product, for up to 15 years.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan told Agra Europe that the College of Commissioners will meet on Wednesday, where they will debate the potential re-authorisation for glyphosate.
In recent weeks the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) said that there is not enough evidence to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, paving the way for the chemical's re-authorisation.
While its Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) agreed to maintain the current harmonised classification of glyphosate as a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects, it concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction.
Glyphosate is most commonly known as the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller and this week's debate comes after months of wrangling over whether Europe would curtail the availability of glyphosate. Last July the EU temporally extended by 18 months the availability of glyphosate.
Farmers are highly reliant on the use of glyphosate for weed control and a decision to re-authorise will come as a major relief for those in the tillage sector.
However, any such move will face vocal opposition. Reacting to the news, that there is not enough evidence to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, Greenpeace said the ECHA “sweeps glyphosate cancer evidence under the carpet”.
Copa-Cogeca, the European farming organisation, welcomed the decision, saying that glyphosate is "an essential part of the farmer's toolkit".
The adopted opinion on the harmonised classification for glyphosate will be taken into account when the Commission and Member States consider whether to renew the approval to use glyphosate as an active substance in pesticides, later this year.
RAC provides an independent scientific opinion on the hazard classification of the substance. The classification is based solely on the hazardous properties of the substance.
It does not take into account the likelihood of exposure to the substance and therefore does not address the risks of exposure. The risks posed by exposure are considered, for example, when deciding whether to renew the approval of glyphosate as a pesticide in accordance with the EU’s Plant Protection Product Regulation.