European farmers are raising the pressure on the European Commission and the member states to extend the licence of weed-killer glyphosate as there is no alternative on the market and a ban could increase overhead costs, they claim.
A meeting of the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed is scheduled to take place on 25 October but Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has left the door open for a vote until the end of the year, when glyphosate’s authorisation ends.
“We will continue our meetings and we will see the discussion with the member states. It’s possible we will have a vote in November, it is possible until the end of December,” the EU Commissioner said.
France recently reiterated its opposition to glyphosate, making it clear it will vote against the Commission’s proposal for a ten-year renewal. On the same page is Italy, which has said it will either vote against the authorisation or at least abstain.
According to sources, at the last member state representatives’ meeting in Brussels, Paris did not present any other alternative.
In the event glyphosate is banned, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV that there were two other herbicides that could replace Monsanto’s Roundup – Syngenta’s Reglone and Bayer’s Basta S.
But both products are expensive for EU farmers who are already faced with increasing overhead costs. The diplomat pointed out that such a scenario could also encourage the creation of a black market, as glyphosate will continue to be produced in third countries.
EURACTIV has learnt that farming unions across Europe are “losing their patience” at the continued threat of losing a “critical tool”.
Leading farmers unions from Romania and France have already filed legal notices with the Commission, warning it that they are prepared to take legal action should the EU executive fail to act on its proposal to renew the license. Spanish unions have also written to the Commission to express their concern.
The president of the European farmers union Copa, Joachim Rukwied, who has claimed that a glyphosate ban threatens the EU’s agricultural competitiveness and food security, met on 17 October with the Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and raised the issue.
“We are living in Europe and we have well-recognised agencies and they support the renewal [of the license]. They are working to very high standards,” Rukwied recently said.
There is no alternative
The French Organisation of Grain Producers (OPG) published an open letter to Andriukaitis claiming that if glyphosate is withdrawn from the market, farmers will suffer significant damage due to increases production costs from using higher quantities of other herbicides.
The letter also noted “that for several years the European Union has been importing, with the agreement of [the] Commission, millions of tonnes of cereals from Ukraine, a country with huge and highly competitive production structures where glyphosate is widely used”.
The French farmers’ union (FDSEA) is also readying campaigns. The union recently emphasised that there was currently no alternative to glyphosate.
“Farmers have made many efforts to adopt good practices and resort to mechanical alternatives whenever possible. However, there is no equivalent alternative to glyphosate to date, hence it’s important for the research to continue and intensify its efforts to develop viable solutions.”