Citizens’ initiative aimed at banning glyphosate gets the go-ahead

Monsanto is the world's biggest producer of glyphosate. [Global Justice Now/Flickr]

Brussels has agreed to the launch of a European Citizens’ Initiative on banning glyphosate in the EU. EURACTIV France reports.

The controversy over the authorisation of the chemical glyphosate could find its way back to the European Commission’s table through a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) supported by environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace.

The European executive yesterday (10 January) announced the reception of an ECI inviting the Commission to “propose to member states a ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.

Simply titled ‘Ban Glyphosate’, the initiative will be officially registered on 25 January. From this date, EU citizens will have 12 months in which to add their signature to the document.

One million signatures

If the proposal receives the support of a million people from at least seven member states, the Commission will be obliged to consider a legislative response and provide justification for its decision.

The world’s best-selling herbicide, an active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller RoundUp, is the subject of intense debate at European level. Classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the WHO, glyphosate has nevertheless been authorised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), whose practice of basing its analyses on studies by the big agro-chemical companies is highly criticised.

Commission prolongs glyphosate licence by 18 months

The European Commission has decided to extend the licence for glyphosate by 18 months, after member states failed to achieve a qualified majority in favour or against the executive’s proposal.

Member states were deeply divided over whether to renew the chemical’s licence, which expired in 2016.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been given until later this year to submit a new assessment of the risk posed by glyphosate. And in the mean time, the product’s authorisation has been granted an 18-month extention.

Slim chance

But the ECI on glyphosate has little chance of succeeding. Since the ECI mechanism was launched in 2012, not a single petition has resulted in the presentation of a legislative bill.

Commission ignoring the ECI’s positive potential for democracy

The European Citizen’s Initiative was labelled a danger by the European Commission, which has grown wary of its use by Eurosceptic campaigners and set out to weaken the only democratic tool by which citizens may directly influence the EU policy agenda, writes Carsten Berg.

Until now, only three ECIs have made it over the one million signature mark.

“Stop Vivisection,” an initiative demanding the end of animal testing in the EU, garnered an unenthusiastic reception from the EU executive, which saw a complete halt to animal testing as unrealistic.

The “One of Us” initiative, which called for an end to European credits to fund abortion in developing countries, was also firmly rejected by the Commission.

Parliament gearing up for European Citizens' Initiative review

MEPs discussed Thursday (26 February) reforming the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), whose three-year review is planned for this year.

As part of its 2017 work programme announced last October, the Commission said it planned to present a legisltive proposal introducing minimum requirements for recycled water, as well as a revision of the Drinking Water Directive, following an ECI on the right to water, submitted in 2014.

Worryingly though, the decision of whether or not to accept an ECI depends on a certain unmber of criteria evaluated by the European Commission. Some initiatives, such as “Stop TTIP”, have been rejected by Brussels on technical grounds, despite receiving three million signatures.

On the other hand, an initiative entitled “Mum Dad & Kids”, pushing an openly anti-LGBTI view of marriage as being “a union between a man and a woman”, received the green light from the institution to begin collecting signatures.

Background

The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, allows citizens to directly influence the Commission's work programme.

In order to be officially aken into account by the European Commission, an ECI must collect a million signatures from one quarter of member states.

Further Reading

European Citizen's Initiative