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"By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox." – Galileo Galilei

EU Votes to Renew Glyphosate for Five Years

After two years of debate sparked by the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 flawed classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” the European Commission finally decided on November 27, 2017 to renew the license of glyphosate, permitting a five-year extension.

In the wake of the announcement, many EU policymakers and organizations applauded the move, saying that science has prevailed and the decision is a relief for the thousands of farmers who rely on glyphosate for their livelihoods.

Here are some notable tweets from key EU leaders:

Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety:

Today’s vote shows that when we all want and put effort in it, we are able to accept and to share our collective responsibility in decision making.

Peter Liese, German MEP:

Happy to hear an agreement to renew #glyphosate for 5 years was reached. @EPPGroup was amongst the groups voicing this demand clearly already at the last #EPlenary

Sean Kelly, Irish MEP:

Glad that sensible decision was taken on #glyphosate. Farmers can get on with farming while researchers can assure consumers. @IFAmedia

Arūnas Vinčiūnas, Head of Cabinet for Health and Food Safety Commissioner European Commission:

Missing point on #glyphosate – intent of destruction of world’s best food safety system by few obscurely financed activists and NGOs. Transparency for everyone is needed. #showyourmoney

UK MEP Anthea McIntyre explained the impact of the decision this way: “The scaremongering and indecision over this product had left farmers and growers fearing they were staring over a cliff edge, so this will be greeted with enormous relief.” UK MEP Julie Girling also pointed out that this vote is a “triumph of common sense in the face of a relentless campaign from some green groups determined to ignore scientific evidence and worry the public unnecessarily.”

Meanwhile, farmers, who together with the public at large are among the most impacted by this decision, supported the vote, but also expressed disappointment that EU member states failed to reauthorize the glyphosate for the full 15 years.  As Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen put it:

“It should have been re-authorised for 15 years after it was given a positive assessment by both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It is vital not only to feed a growing population with reliable food supplies at affordable prices.”

Teresa Babuscio, the secretary general of COCERAL (the European association of trade in cereals, rice, feedstuffs oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats and agrosupply) pointed to the fact that politics was very much at play throughout the entire process:

“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) were certain about the safety of use of glyphosate. We must take science as our guide and rely on it, avoiding emotional debates and artificial controversies.”

Even TV personality and medical doctor Christian Jessen chimed in on social media, rightly pointing out that emotions and politics have been drowning out the science and the facts in this debate.

“I’m getting pestered by various groups asking why I refuse to put my name to a letter/petition to get glyphosate banned. The answer is simple: overwhelming evidence shows it is not carcinogenic. Like so much public opinion feelings come before facts.” (emphasis added)

EFSA, ECHA and the Bundesinstitut fur Risikobewertung (BfR) in Germany have all concluded that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer.  According to EFSA, “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential.” Similarly, ECHA determined that, “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction.” And the Bundesinstitut fur Risikobewertung (BfR) in Germany also concluded, “the available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animals.” These conclusions compliment decisions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other global regulators in Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia on the safety of glyphosate.

Thankfully, common sense and science prevailed in the final vote – even if emotions and politics dominated the entire debate leading up to it.