France reaffirms opposition to glyphosate licence renewal

Applying glyphosate

Glyphosate is used by farmers all over the world. [Chafer Machinery/Flickr]

France reaffirmed on Monday (25 September) its opposition to plans by the European Commission to extend its approval for the weed killer product glyphosate, the prime minister’s office said.

“The European Commission has proposed renewing its approval for glyphosate for another ten years. This is far too long, given the concerns that remain over this product, and France will vote against the proposal, as clearly laid out previously in July,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a statement.

Concerns over glyphosate’s risk to human health have prompted investigations by US congressional committees and delayed a relicensing decision in the EU.

The EU executive has proposed extending approval for glyphosate by ten years after the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) said in a study in March it should not be classified as a cancer-causing substance.

A qualified majority is required in the Council in order for the reauthorisation to pass, so France’s veto could prove crucial.

Commission open to ‘biodiversity clause’ to end glyphosate deadlock

The European Commission stands ready to insert a clause referring to biodiversity in the glyphosate renewal proposal if requested by member states, a Commission Spokesperson told EURACTIV.

“France has sent emails to explore the new tendencies among the member states,” an EU diplomat told EURACTIV.com earlier in September, adding that this could mean that even Paris is not convinced about its ultimate stance on the issue.

“It’s a technical issue that was wrongly politicised […] agriculture should never be politicised,” the EU diplomat stated.

France testing waters on glyphosate with other EU states

France has sent emails to several diplomatic services in Brussels trying to find out what stance they will take in an upcoming vote on the re-authorisation of the controversial glyphosate weed killer, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV.com

No sudden ban

In previous votes, France and Germany have abstained, leading the European Commission to extend the licence by 18 months at the end of June 2016 to give the ECHA time to study the chemical further.

France’s biggest farming union, the FNSEA, said Monday that it was “out of the question” for the country to go it alone, worrying that a French ban could put them at a disadvantage against European competitors.

“A sudden ban, no – a path for reducing it and finding solutions, if the solutions are good economically and technically, we can see it happening,” said FNSEA chief Christiane Lambert.

Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said at a farmers’ protest last Friday (22 September) that his biggest mistake would be “to ignore you, and not engage in debate with you until we find a shared solution”.

He said he shared the same objectives as France’s farmers: to guarantee stability and security, while producing high quality food and minimising health risks for consumers.

“But nothing can be solved in the span of an hour,” Hulot said.

France's ecology minister meets angry farmers and promises 'shared solution'

French farmers have been protesting France’s proposed ban on glyphosate, Europe’s number one pesticide. Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot tried to engage in dialogue with them to achieve a “shared solution”. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports.