A cut-and-paste job has jeopardized not only the credibility of European institutions but also the health of millions of farmers and consumers. The subject: glyphosate, the active ingredient in weedkillers like Roundup. European Union governments are currently in the process of deciding whether or not to renew its authorization for sale and use in fields for the next 10 years.
This decision could be influenced by a report prepared by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that maintains glyphosate is not dangerous to human health. Too bad that the evaluations contained in the document have been taken verbatim from the license renewal application made by Monsanto, the same company that developed the chemical compound.
As explained by La Stampa, The Guardian and the other publications that broke the news, nobody had previously thought to compare the application presented in May 2012 by the American corporation on behalf of the Glyphosate Task Force (an industry body representing over 20 companies who sell glyphosate-based products in Europe) with the EFSA report, which had always claimed to have conducted independent reviews.
But the most controversial section of the report produced by the European scientific body, focusing on glyphosate’s genotoxicity, carcinogenicity and toxicity risks, has been copied word for word from the Monsanto-produced dossier.
At this point, doubts about the reliability and professionalism of the European agency would seem to tip the balance of believability towards warnings such as the one from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which has labeled glyphosate “potentially carcinogenic.”
EU member states will now have to express their opinion about the renewal of the license on October 4 and 5. Austria has publicly demanded that light be shed on what is becoming known as “EFSA-gate,” with the Austrian authority for food safety (AGES), via Agriculture Minister Andrä Rupprechter, asking the European Commission to launch an in-depth investigation, saying that until this is done, there can be no vote on glyphosate’s relicensing.
Of the other countries, only France had already announced, prior to the scandal, that it would be voting against. And Italy? The Minister for Agricultural Policies, Maurizio Martina, has said that the government’s objective is Glyphosate Zero, but that was a year ago. Perhaps it is time to clarify his position.
Today would be the perfect opportunity, as the European Commission’s PAFF (Plants, Animals, Food and Feed) technical committee meets to discuss, among other issues, the weedkiller’s license renewal.
The PAFF verdict could lay the foundations for the definitive decision that will be adopted after October 5. “We ask that ministers Martina, Galletti and Lorenzin lead a coalition of countries that care about the health of their citizens, the quality of their food and environmental protection,” said Maria Grazia Mammuccini, spokesperson for the #StopGlyphosate coalition, to which Slow Food belongs. “It is essential that Italy maintains its position, but it is also important that it acts at a European level to ensure the Commission’s technical verdict goes in the right direction.”