The European Commission (EC) has taken the decision to extend the licence for glyphosate for a further 18 months to enable the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to reassess the safety of the herbicide.
However, this extension period is much shorter than the previous proposal to re-licence glyphosate for 15 years.
In a press release, the Commission stated: “By the end of 2017, an additional opinion on the properties of the active substance is expected from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) the competent EU agency for the assessment of dossiers for the classification of chemical substances. Its opinion will be fully taken into account when deciding on subsequent steps.”
The Commission added that discussions on the proposal to restrict the conditions of glyphosate use in the EU – including a ban of a co-formulant (POE-tallowamine) from glyphosate-based products, obligations to reinforce scrutiny of pre-harvest uses of glyphosate and minimise use in specific areas (public parks and playgrounds) had so far been inconclusive. “The Commission regrets that member states have not yet been able to agree to these restricted conditions and will direct the necessary efforts to have them adopted as soon as possible.”
Commenting on the decision to extend the licence, Peter Melchett, the Soil Association’s policy director, said: “The Soil Association is disappointed that glyphosate’s licence has been extended until December 2017, although the fact that the 18 month extension is far shorter than the 15 years originally proposed has come as a huge blow to the pesticide industry.”
He added: “For UK farming, a key step would be to ban the use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant, to prevent the powerful weed-killer being sprayed on food crops just before they are harvested…. In view of the controversy surrounding the safety of glyphosate, the Soil Association calls once again for bread manufacturers and flour millers to insist on a glyphosate-free supply of UK cereals destined for human consumption, as there is still time to achieve this before harvest begins.”
Days before the Commission’s decision, the Soil Association published a review of the scientific research on the impact of glyphosate on soil and soil life which concluded that new evidence suggests the herbicide may not be safe for soil life, as previously claimed.