The member states should stop hiding behind or even pointing the finger at the European Commission regarding the re-authorisation of the world’s most commonly used weedkiller, glyphosate, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis told EURACTIV.com.
The European Commission and member states discussed on 5-6 October the glyphosate issue at the Standing Committee on Plant Animal Food and Feed (PAFF), but failed to make any progress [See background].
Commission sources stressed that several member states indicated before or during the meeting their support for the proposal while some had not yet decided on their position; a few indicated their intention to oppose.
According to the EU executive, glyphosate, whose licence ends at the end of 2017, will not be renewed without the necessary support from the member states.
Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the European Health Forum Gastein in Austria, Commissioner Andriukaitis stressed that without a qualified majority there will be no progress.
“It’s enough to only hide behind the European Commission and pointing fingers and blaming us, it’s enough,” the EU health chief said, adding that he is trying to find a qualified majority, otherwise the “responsibility will be to the member states”.
According to the planning, a PAFF meeting is scheduled to take place on the 23 October but the Commissioner left the door open for a vote until the end of the year.
“We will continue our meetings and we will see the discussion with the member states. It’s possible a vote in November, a vote is possible until the end of December,” Andriukaitis noted.
The EU Commissioner added, “Science decided, conclusions are there,” reiterating that he has no doubts about scientific conclusions.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have green-lit the chemical claiming it is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.
However, this is in contrast to an assessment by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which pointed out that the herbicide solution was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
A campaign group said that 1.4 million people had signed a petition calling on the European Union to suspend glyphosate approval pending further assessment.
At EU level, glyphosate has also received positive opinions from EFSA and ECHA.
The EFSA said it had carried out a thorough analysis and taken account of the IARC’s findings. Greenpeace, for its part, called the EFSA’s report “a whitewash”.
Andriukaitis hinted that sometimes it’s “strange” that people argue against glyphosate by only by focusing on the IARC findings. “Sometimes they also disseminate the message that the EU does not take into account the IARC’s monograph [on glyphosate],” he said, adding that this is far from reality.
“IARC was a first step of the WHO system and we started from the beginning to read the monograph,” the Commissioner stressed, adding that he personally arranged meetings between IARC and EFSA asking them to once again to assess the issue.
“WHO and FAO joined the pesticides committee level. They assessed the monograph of IARC and they decided finally that glyphosate is unlikely carcinogenic,” Andriukaitis noted.
He also hinted that some media “do not always mention it and they say that the Commission does not take into account the IARC monograph. This is not true.”
“Around the world today all the organisations in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, present the same conclusions on glyphosate is unlikely carcinogenic,” the Commissioner concluded.
Germany’s crucial role
According to the rules, a blocking minority can be achieved by little more than 45% of the member states or by a group of countries representing at least 35% of the bloc’s population, if it includes a minimum of four member states.
In this case, France, which openly opposes glyphosate, will need the support of another big country and a few small ones to reject the file.
For the industry, Berlin’s stance on the case has now become crucial.
In Germany, the newly elected lawmakers are trying to form a coalition government after the recent elections. A so-called “Jamaican coalition” composed of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the Liberals and the Greens would make things more complicated for glyphosate.
EURACTIV understands that the industry would prefer to find a solution before the establishment of such a coalition.
Monsanto and other producers of glyphosate recently sent a notice to the Commission reminding it to come to an agreement before the end of the year.