Carlo Petrini: “It’s this type of decision that drives citizens away from Europe”
After the missed agreement on glyphosate renewal on November 9, Member States have voted today: the license of glyphosate has been renewed for another 5 years. For Slow Food this vote shows that many European governments do not respect the wishes of their citizens, who would like to put a stop to this pesticide being used in our food system and the wider environment.
While 18 Member States voted in favor (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom), only 9 Member States voted against (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta) and just Portugal abstained.
The fact that EU governments were not able to reach an agreement over several rounds of votes and different proposals should have made the Commission and European governments realize that its renewal was not welcomed, as clearly voiced by civil society and by more than a million EU citizens through the European Citizens Initiative.
A slight consolation for what has happened today is the mounting pressure by citizens and civil society organizations across Europe to put an end to the use of glyphosate: indeed a number of cities, counties, states and countries in Europe, as well as throughout the world, have taken steps to either restrict or ban glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
To give a few examples: Belgium has banned the individual use of glyphosate, in Denmark the Danish Working Environment Authority declared glyphosate to be carcinogenic and has recommended a change to less toxic chemicals, France has banned its private sale and will ban glyphosate in the future regardless of the European Union vote, in Italy the Stop Glyphosate Coalition is gaining more and more members while the Italian Ministry of Health placed a number of restrictions on glyphosate use, in Germany certain retail stores have pulled glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup from shelves, Malta began the process of instituting a countrywide ban of glyphosate, the Netherlands banned all non-commercial use of glyphosate, and in Switzerland the Migros and Coop supermarket chains removed glyphosate-based products from their shelves due to health risks.
Carlo Petrini, founder and president of Slow Food International, affirms: “Today’s vote was a political decision against citizens, a decision that did not take into account the address of the Parliament, a decision that once again put the logic of profit before sustainability and the health of the environment and people. It’s this type of decision that drives citizens away from Europe.”
Public pressure against glyphosate has not stopped, nor will it go away. Civil society and citizens will continue working to put a stop to glyphosate in 5 year’s time, while they will continue to pressure national governments to ban it at a national level.
The decision comes following repeated failures to achieve a qualified majority at the Standing Committee and again at the Appeal Committee on June 29th 2016, both Committees representing Member States. On June 29th, 2016, the European Commission extended the approval of glyphosate for a limited period to allow the European Chemicals Agency to conduct its assessment of the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate. The European Chemicals Agency sent its opinion to the European Commission on 15 June 2017. The current approval of glyphosate expires on December 15th, 2017. Several rounds of discussions were held between the Commission and representatives of European governments: on July 20th, on October 5th and on October 25th. On November 9th, 2017 at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, Member States voted on the Commission’s proposal (revision 3) for the renewal of approval of glyphosate for 5 years.
Commercialized since 1974, in 2015 glyphosate was classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.’ Two months after hearing the IARC’s opinion, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) came to the opposite conclusion: in its view, in fact, glyphosate is ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.’ However, the European food safety authority (Efsa) based its recommendation on an EU report that copied and pasted analyses from a Monsanto study, with pages of the study identical to passages in an application submitted by Monsanto on behalf of the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), an industry body led by the company.
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