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Activists rally outside a closed-door European Commission meeting on Monday. (Photo: Food Policy Revolution/Twitter)

Activists rally outside a closed-door European Commission meeting on Monday. (Photo: Food Policy Revolution/Twitter)

Wave of Opposition Derails EU Bid to Extend Use of Toxic Herbicide

European Commission reportedly forced to postpone vote on extending use of glyphosate after member states rebel

Lauren McCauley

A wave of opposition has slammed the brakes on a plan to re-approve the use of Monsanto's toxic glyphosate in the European Union as a number of member states, buoyed by growing public outcry, launched a shock rebellion against the proposal.

European Commission leaders met behind closed doors in Brussels on Monday to hold a vote on whether to extend authorization of the use of the weed-killer for 15 years, before its license expires in June.

Advance reporting suggested that the extension is essentially a done-deal. But in the hours before the scheduled vote, leaders from Italy joined Sweden, France, and the Netherlands in a "shock rebellion" against the widely-used herbicide—forcing the Commission to postpone the vote and "reflect" on the plan, according to French representative Alexis Dutertre.

Meanwhile, outside Monday's hearing, activists dressed in hazmat suits and held signs that read "No to glyphosate on our fields" and "Their profits—our cancers."

Ahead of the meeting, over 180,000 Europeans signed a petition calling on EU member states and the Commission to ban glyphosate, citing the World Health Organization's determination that the herbicide is probably carcinogenic for humans.

Despite this, the European Commission's proposal to extend its use relies on a highly-criticized assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) that glyphosate is "non-carcinogenic." Not only has that study been strongly rebuked by nearly 100 scientists who point to "serious flaws" in its scientific evaluation, much of the evidence is based on research that Monsanto and other glyphosate producers refuse to disclose due to supposed "trade secrets," according to a recent study by the watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory.

"We won’t take risks with glyphosate and we don’t think that the analysis done so far is good enough," said Sweden's environment minister, Åsa Romson, ahead of the vote. "We will propose that no decision is taken until further analysis has been done and the EFSA scientists have been more transparent about their considerations."

Romson said that Sweden is "raising concerns because our citizens are raising concerns. They want to feel safe and secure with food and production in our society."

Meanwhile, a new study by the Heinrich Böll Foundation found that nearly all people tested showed glyphosate residue in their urine and a striking three-quarters of the German target group "displayed levels that were five times higher than the legal limit of drinking water," EurActiv reported Monday.

"The most significant values were found in children aged from zero to nine and adolescents aged 10 to 19, particularly those individuals raised on farms," the report notes.

Harald Ebner, a genetic engineering and bio-economic expert with the German Greens, said that since the study—the largest of its kind—proved that "nearly every single one of us has been contaminated by plant poison, it is clear to me that no new authorizations for 2031 should be issued," referring to the Commission vote.

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