European Union finally grants last-minute, five-year license to glyphosate

Monsanto's Roundup on sale                  AFP  Philippe Huguen

It will now adopt the decision before the current authorization on glyphosate expires on 15 December.

The surprise came when Germany voted for the extension, a move that divided the caretaker government in Berlin and could have repercussions on Chancellor Angela Merkel's negotiations to form a grand coalition between Christian Democrats and Socialists.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to Monday's vote by saying he would do whatever necessary to ensure the weed killer is banned in his country within three years.

Glyphosate was first authorised for use in the European Union in 1974 by USA agri-giant Monsanto under the Roundup brand.

The chemical has been used by farmers for more than 40 years, but its safety was cast into doubt when a World Health Organisation agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded in 2015 it probably causes cancer. "This is a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment".

In a statement, Barbara Hendrick said that two hours before the Appeal Committee began, Germany was set to abstain from the vote as she still disagreed with the five year renewal.

"The people who are supposed to protect us from unsafe pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them", Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said.

However, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has said that there isn't enough scientific evidence now available to prove that glyphosate causes cancer, with the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) arriving at the same conclusion in November 2015.

A ban on the widely used chemical would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector.

Friends of the Earth Malta said the European Union had failed to seize an opportunity to end glyphosate.

But the enzyme blocking chemical has also become a mainstay of modern agricultural techniques that farmers' unions see as environmentally friendly, even as critics condemn it as a "pesticide treadmill" of danger to plants, animals and people. "Five more years of glyphosate will put our health and environment at risk, and is a major setback to more sustainable farming methods".

Commenting on Malta's vote against the extension, FoE said: "This announcement shows responsibility from government's side as it has consistently chosen to listen to the concerns of experts and individuals who have demanded that our fields, streets and gardens would be free from this risky weed killer".

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