Extending herbicide’s approval until December 2022 has pleased neither industry nor environmental campaigners

The European commission has voted to renew its approval for glyphosate herbicide for an additional five years. The decision ends months of deadlock with 18 member states voting in favour, nine against and one abstention. 

Glyphosate, originally developed by Monsanto as the active ingredient in Roundup, is the world’s most widely used herbicide and has been used for several decades. The current EU approval for glyphosate was due to expire on 15 December, but moves to renew the license had stalled with insufficient support from member states either in favour or against the proposals.

Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. However, IARC’s analysis has been criticised for focusing on hazard rather than risk, and ignoring evidence from extensive industry field trials. In March the European Chemicals Agency concluded that there is no evidence that glyphosate causes cancer in humans – a finding that has also been reached by the European Food Safety Authority and numerous other national authorities.

Over 1 million people across Europe have signed the ‘Stop Glyphosate’ European Citizens’ Initiative, with the organisers presenting their case at a public hearing on 20 November. Following the decision to renew glyphosate’s license, the commission will outline its legal and political responses to the initiative before the end of 2017.