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Austrian MPs vote to completely ban glyphosate by 2020

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Monsanto Co's Roundup is shown for sale in Encinitas, California, U.S., June 26, 2017
Monsanto Co's Roundup is shown for sale in Encinitas, California, U.S., June 26, 2017 -
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Lawmakers in Austria's lower house voted on Tuesday to ban the controversial herbicide glyphosate from 2020, potentially setting up a legal battle with the European Union.

The motion, proposed by the social democratic SPO party, plans for a complete ban of glyphosate products as a "precautionary" measure.

"The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing. It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment," the SPO leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement.

A number of European member states have partially banned glyphosate — a pesticide first marketed by Monsanto as Roundup — but Austria could effectively become the first EU state to completely ban it if the measure is approved by its upper house.

Concerns have been growing about the potential effect the herbicide could have on human health since a 2015 report by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer which classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans".

But the EU renewed its approval of glyphosate in 2017 until the end of 2022 and named France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden as rapporteurs tasked with assessing the herbicide for further use within the bloc.

Lawmakers from Austria's People's Party (OVP) opposed the bill, warning that a complete ban on glyphosate could be in breach of EU law. Klaus Lindinger, from the OVP, branded the legislation as "pure populism."

Bayer, the German conglomerate who acquired Monsanto last year, said in a statement that "the decision by the Austrian National Council contradicts extensive scientific results on glyphosate."

It cited a recent study by the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna which found that when used properly, glyphosate "poses no threat to human health" and that using "alternative chemical herbicides" would have "negative ecological consequences."

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