As the debate over the safety of the world’s most widely used weed killer rages on in Brussels, there were demonstrations against glyphosate in the Belgian capital on Wednesday (July 19).
There have been conflicting studies on whether the popular herbicide can cause cancer. The product’s EU license is set to expire at the end of the year, and a decision over whether to extend it is pending.
“I am here because I am concerned about farmers, people and nature. We ask the European Commission, all governments to invest more in research for alternatives for the use of pesticides,” said Kurt Sannen, a farmer and chairman of the organic association Bioforum.
Korsak Leonid, a citizen from Belgium, gave this warning:“Soon there will be no birds, no bees, nothing. So it is time to react.”
A committee of experts from EU nations was set to hold a first discussion of the issue on Wednesday, with a vote expected later in the year.
The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. But the Commission asked for the scientific opinion of the European Chemicals Agency, which said the substance cannot be classified as such. The pesticides industry says the product has been found to be safe and should continue to be sold.
Environmental activists and health advocates argue there is too much uncertainty around the safety of glyphosate, and the precautionary principle should apply. More than a million people have already signed a European Citizens’ Initiative asking for the weed killer to be banned.
For over two years, citizen pressure has stopped member states from agreeing to a full 10-year re-license.
EU governments will be asked to vote on this proposal after the summer.
EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis gave the following reassurance: “I wanted to make clear that the Commission has no intention to re-approve this substance without the support of the qualified majority of the member states. “
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that glyphosate had been banned. It has not. EU member states are discussing whether to extend the product’s license for another 10 years.