Prohibit glyphosate

European Citizens’ Initiative

Another successful citizens’ initiative demanding a ban on glyphosate to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides!

horizontal line Written by Lea Gormsen // 31.8.2021

The ‘Stop glyphosate’ Initiative

As the fourth successful European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), this initiative was aimed at a ban of the pesticide glyphosate. The organisers’ main motivation has been to protect people and the environment from exposure to toxic pesticides and requested the European Commission to ask its member states the following:

  1. To ban glyphosate-based herbicides, exposure to which has been linked to cancer in humans, and has led to ecosystems degradation
  2. To ensure that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, which are commissioned by competent public authorities instead of the pesticide industry
  3. To set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, with a view to achieving a pesticide-free future

The ECI mechanism was established in 2012 to make it possible for EU citizens to get involved in EU policy-making. For an initiative to be successful, the organisers need to collect one million signatures from citizens of at least seven different EU countries. This ECI was registered on the 25th of January 2017, and the collection of signatures ended on 7th of July 2017. This initiative collected 1.070.865 signatures from 28 different member states, and therefore the Commission had to consider the ECI.

Ban on glyphosate to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides

The reasoning behind the initiative

In the annex written for the European Citizens’ Initiative, the organisers argue that glyphosate is one of Europe’s most common pesticides, although it can have serious health implications. They call on a report from 2015 made by the the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, meaning that there is a possibility that glyphosate can cause cancer. The organisers are convinced that there is enough evidence for the EU to ban the use of glyphosate.

The ECI also seeks to change the way in which pesticides are scientifically evaluated in the EU. They claim that most evaluations are carried out by those who have a stake in the industry, for example pesticide producers themselves. The consequences of this are that the safety evaluations might overlook some possible hazards to ensure their industry. The annex states: “The studies should not be commissioned by those with a very clear vested interest in their outcome. Instead, it must be up for public authorities to decide who carries out the studies”[1]. They also request that the EU increases the transparency of such reports, and ensures that the industry is not allowed to choose which member state carries out the evaluation of their products.

Lastly they request that a EU-wide mandatory reductions targets for pesticides must be set. The organizers state that there are 480 other pesticides than glyphosate allowed in the EU, and that they are used on a routine basis. This means that a big amount of pesticide residues is found in the environment. They call on the EU to make sure pesticides are only used when all other methods have failed and reduce the overall use of pesticides.

In the long term, the ECI wishes to ban pesticides completely. The annex states that the chemicals in pesticides can have ecological consequences, health consequences for farmers and their families, as well as for the wider population. We consume the chemicals through the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe.

The Commission’s answer

On the 12th of december 2017 the European Commission presented its answer on the initiative, which was probably not all the organizers had hoped for. The Commission further examined the scientific claims that glyphosate is ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and disagreed. Therefore, no legal action will be proposed in this regard. They will also re-evaluate the legislation system in which pesticides reside – and make sure that the member states can measure the reduction of the risks involved in the use of pesticides.

What has happened since 2017?

Since 2017 the EU has set a Transparency Regulation into motion. This regulation was developed to increase transparency and the quality of studies used in scientific assessment of substances – just as the initiative proposed.

The EU also prolonged the approval of glyphosate for “only” five years, substances like this are usually approved for up to 15 years at a time. This means that the EU will have to evaluate glyphosate in five years. The first rounds of talks on re-evaluating the authorization of glyphosate in the EU will begin in September 2021. An assessment group was set up for this purpose, which submitted a report of around 11,000 pages to the European Food Security Agency (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in June 2021. The experts concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. EFSA’s full assessment is expected in the second half of 2022.

Other countries in the EU have taken matters into their own hands, for example Luxembourg has passed a law banning all products containing glyphosate from 31st of december 2020, and Germany has passed a law banning glyphosate from 2024 onwards!

If you want to stay up to date in regards to the discussion around glyphosate in the EU, visit Our Only Home’s website – where we will update you on further developments.

Literature

  1. Annex 1 of 1, page 2

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