Glyphosate—activism pays off. EU sets up enquiry commission

12 Feb 2018

Europe isn’t only calls for austerity and budget restrictions, and sometimes it’s prepared to show it. Last week, in fact, the European Parliament approved the composition of a special enquiry commission to look into authorization procedures for pesticides.

In its sights will be, above all, the tortuous procedure that led to the five-year renewal last November of the commercialization license of glyphosate, the herbicide that has been the object of heated dispute in the scientific world ever since the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as ‘probably carcinogenic’.

The 30 Euro-MPs on the new commission will now devote the next nine months to scrutinizing the work of EU agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), already the butt of fierce criticism following the discovery that the most sensitive pages in its glyphosate risk assessment had been taken from studies used by Monsanto.

During the final ballot, German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt also caused controversy when, against the will of Angela Merkel’s executive, he decided to vote in favor of the license renewal. Today, with the new German government in place, he says that use of the herbicide should be reduced as soon as possible.

Though the battle over renewal has been lost—at least for the moment—a civil awareness is growing around glyphosate and agrochemicals in general that politics can no longer afford to ignore.

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) promoted by the ‘Stop Glyphosate’ coalition that, partly thanks to the contribution of the Slow Food network, managed to mobilize 1,300,000 people, hasn’t been in vain. It shows that, pitted against the temptation to respond to populism by privatizing decision-making processes, there are still people who never tire of asserting the role that an informed and active citizenship can play in choices that affect the health of everyone.

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