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Glyphosate row heats up between EU Commission and agric MEPs

EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has urged members of the European Parliament not to “create fear” or “play political games” with regard to pesticide approvals, stressing that there must be a “science-based debate”.

EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has urged members of the European Parliament not to “create fear” or “play political games” with regard to pesticide approvals, stressing that there must be a “science-based debate”. He was speaking at a meeting with the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee that was meant to cover the Commission’s report on the implementation of the EU sustainable use of pesticides Directive (2009/128). But several MEPs used the opportunity to call for all pesticides to be banned or criticise the Commission’s proposal to renew the EU approval of the herbicide, glyphosate. Mr Andriukaitis’ response angered some MEPs, with one walking out of the room, prompting the chairman’s admonishment that there was “no need to shout and bang the table” and instruction for MEPs to “act in a calm, composed and balanced way”.

Mr Andriukaitis stressed that he was “not against organic farming”, but maintained that it could not meet food demands. Other MEPs criticised the “incorrect” statements made in the debate, pointing out that conservation farming techniques to protect the soil require the use of glyphosate, and that IPM practices also involve the use of pesticides. They argued that farmers are already reducing agrochemical use through precision farming and new application technology. Several MEPs agreed with the aim to reduce the use of chemical pesticides, but stressed that they could not be removed until farmers had sufficient alternatives available.

In the few comments that related to the report on sustainable pesticide use, some MEPs questioned its conclusion that EU member states had made insufficient progress in implementing the Directive. The report had a lack of detailed analysis or figures to support this conclusion, they said. There were calls for clearer and harmonised objectives for member states to follow.

The Commission’s proposal for a five-year renewal period for glyphosate is to go for a second vote in an appeal committee of member-state representatives on November 27th. An earlier vote was inconclusive, with some states still concerned about conflicting scientific opinions on the active ingredient’s carcinogenic classification. The proposal has been amended so that, if approved, it would come into force on the day after publication in the EU Official Journal, rather than the standard 20 days, because glyphosate’s current approval is due to expire on December 15th.

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