President Macron’s commitment to ban glyphosate-based weedkillers within three years remains in place, his government says, even though MPs have thrown out legal moves to enforce it.
The French parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, has rejected moves to impose a deadline for phasing out the controversial chemical, which has been linked to cancer.
This came despite Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to ditch the controversial weedkiller within three years and his centrist government's large parliamentary majority.
It brought immediate criticism that health concerns had been sacrificed in the interests of powerful farming and chemical lobbies. Glyphosate is best known for its use in the Monsanto product Roundup.
Last year the president instructed his government to forbid the use of glyphosate as soon as alternatives had been found, “and at the latest within three years”. On Tuesday, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Franceinfo radio that his commitment remained clear.
Macron made the pledge last November, following the European Union’s decision to grant another five-year licence for the weedkiller.
His environment minister, former green activist and TV presenter Nicolas Hulot, had proposed exemptions for farmers who were not ready to ditch glyphosate within that time.
The government’s legal bill came before parliament imposed no legal deadline. Amendments attempting to do so were roundly rejected by MPs from the political right and centre. Some argued it was important not to antagonise farmers.
Former Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon tweeted that “health has little weight when faced with the agricultural and chemical lobbies”.
France’s farming unions are divided on the issue, but the largest, the FNSEA, has argued strongly against a ban and last year farmers blocked the Champs-Elysees in Paris in protest at Macron’s plan.
The FNSEA argues the farming industry has pledged to reduce the use of pesticides. However, environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have argued that a future legal ban is needed to make sure the use of glyphosate is phased out.
The EU’s chemical agency concluded last year that there was no evidence linking glyphosate to cancer in humans.
However, in 2015 a much-cited report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) cancer agency decided that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic”. Its findings have been questioned, while Monsanto's position that its herbicides are safe has also been challenged.