The European Commission is pushing for the reapproval of the herbicide glyphosate for use in the European Union, despite concerns that the reapproval process has failed to adequately account for scientific evidence on the herbicide’s health and environmental risks.
The current license for glyphosate use in the EU expires at the end of 2023.
Glyphosate has been linked to neurotoxic health effects and is classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Several countries have adopted bans or restrictions on its use, including Germany, Italy, and Austria.
On July 26, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its peer review risk assessment for glyphosate. The assessment identified serious data gaps, including the need for additional research on a finding indicating potential chromosomal effects that could lead to genetic mutation. The assessment also stated that the “consumer dietary risk assessment could not be finalized” since data on the magnitude of crop residues was incomplete.
Despite these gaps, the EFSA concluded that the herbicide posed “no critical areas of concern” and, according to a leaked document received by Pesticide Action Network Europe, the Commission then presented a draft report to EU Member States in a closed door meeting, recommending renewal of glyphosate’s approval.
Activists have previously raised concerns about transparency and the role of agribusiness in the EU’s pesticide authorization system. Though the evidence is peer reviewed by the EFSA, the data for the EU Commission’s assessment of glyphosate was compiled and presented by the Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG), a consortium of eight agribusiness companies seeking the chemical’s renewal, which claims to have provided “all the scientific studies and information on the safety of glyphosate.” Although civil society groups subsequently made additional submissions to the EU Commission about the dangers of glyphosate, they said the EU’s assessment still “neglects a wealth of independent and peer-reviewed scientific studies that link glyphosate to severe health and environmental problems.”
The rush to reapprove glyphosate runs counter to the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity objectives under the European Green Deal and exposes the strength of corporate power in decisions around human and environmental health. The EU should ban the use of glyphosate for domestic use and export in line with the EU’s environmental commitments and respective of the human right to health.