Glyphosate (UK)

In 2017, the EU decided to renew (for a further five years) the licence that permits the herbicide Glyphosate to be marketed and used in the EU28. I have posted before about this (but it was a while back).

Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical company Monsanto.

One UN study called the chemical “probably carcinogenic”, but other scientists said it was safe to use.

The UK was among the EU member states in favour of glyphosate renewal. Germany and Poland were also among them – though they had previously abstained.

France and Belgium were among the states that voted against. Portugal abstained. President Macron said after the decision that France would ban Glyphosate as soon as alternatives are found, and within three years at the latest.

The EU Commission said the current proposal on the weedkiller “enjoys the broadest possible support by the member states while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment”.

Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Some countries and regions have banned glyphosate use in public parks and gardens. Its effect on plants is non-selective, meaning it will kill most of them when applied.

The European Commission says that besides EFSA, the European Chemicals Agency and other scientific bodies found no link to cancer in humans.

The Soil Association says glyphosate traces are regularly found in bread.

Since the EU decision, a US court has ordered Monsanto to pay one user a substantive sum in damages after he developed cancer, a second case in a different US court also ordered a substantive sum in damages, and further cases are before the US courts in different places.

As a result, Councils across the UK are examining whether to take action. This Guardian article summarises – here.

The current Government guidance is under review.

HSE is the UK regulator responsible for plant protection products (pesticides and herbicides) following Brexit – their online information is here.

Glyphosate (UK) Regulatory Query

UPDATE (November 2017) : The European Commission has approved glyphosate for a further five years. This approval will be adopted before 15th December 2017 (when the current approval runs out).

The details are here.

UPDATE (June 2016) : The European Commission has adopted an eighteen month extension of its current approval. 

Press Release is here.

The legal position (set out below) in the UK is unchanged. Please note : some Local Authorities may trial alternatives for use in parks and gardens (eg Bristol).

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Glyophosate is regulated in the UK as a pesticide. Under European Union (EU) rules, pesticides are only approved for use if a scientific assessment has identified no unacceptable risks to people or the environment. The EU current approval of glyphosate expires on 31st December 2015.

The matter of health risks being created by use of glyphosate was raised in a recent assessment by the World Health Organisation’s latest review of cancer risks of this chemical (a main ingredient of the popular herbicide Roundup).

UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) responded on 29th April 2015 as follows to a Freedom of Request:

“As part of the review of glyphosate, the regulatory authority responsible for pesticides in Germany (BfR) has assessed the relevant data to see if EU approval can continue from 2016. BfR’s assessment has been circulated to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and to all EU Member States for critical review. EFSA published the assessment on its website in March 2014 for a two month public consultation and has co-ordinated a peer review, conducted in February 2015. This involved all Member States’ pesticides regulatory authorities, European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, and it’s expert advisors.

EFSA is in the process of drawing up its findings in a formal conclusion, which will be sent to the Commission for consideration. In light of this conclusion, a decision will be taken either to renew the approval of glyphosate or not. If approval is renewed, products which contain the active substance will be separately re-assessed at Member State level, to confirm that they too continue to meet the required standards of safety.

If approval is not renewed, glyphosate products will be withdrawn from the market.

In the work carried out so far under the EU review, glyphosate has been judged not to show an ability to cause cancer in humans. In addition, predicted exposures from authorised uses of glyphosate were found to be within acceptable limits for all aspects of human health.”

The full text is here.