The European Union is due to announce the re-approval of the controversial herbicide glyphosate for the next 10 years despite rising anger from scientists and citizens.
Glyphosate is currently approved in the EU until 15th December 2023, but many had believed that it was on borrowed time as the evidence mounted against its safe usage as a herbicide used to control weeds.
Here at Weedingtech, we’ve been long aware of the damage that Glyphosate can cause to the local wildlife and sensitive waterway environments, so we’re disappointed with the news coming out of the EU.
In this piece, we’re sharing a bit more on the background of why we believe Glyphosate shouldn’t be permitted to be used in public spaces, and what the science and citizens think of the herbicide.
Why are citizens calling for a ban on glyphosate?
To comprehend the importance of banning Glyphosate, it is crucial to first understand what it is and its role in agriculture. Glyphosate is a chemical compound commonly used as a weed killer in crop fields, gardens, and public spaces. It works by inhibiting the growth of unwanted plants, making it an effective tool for weed control.
Also known by its brand name Roundup, Glyphosate was first introduced to the market in the 1970s. Since then, its usage has skyrocketed, making it the most widely used herbicide globally. Its popularity can be attributed to its effectiveness in killing weeds, as well as its affordability.
However, the rise in Glyphosate usage has also sparked concerns regarding its potential impact on human health and the environment. As a result, there have been calls to ban this chemical compound to protect both people and the planet.
The Potential Health Risks of Glyphosate
While Glyphosate has long been considered safe for use, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting potential health risks associated with its exposure. Understanding these risks is crucial in determining whether a ban on Glyphosate is necessary.
From being linked to causing cancer through to other health issues, if we consider that Glyphosate is often sprayed around children's playgrounds and other public places, it’s understandable to hear about any citizen concerns.
Environmental Impact of Glyphosate
Glyphosate and Water Contamination
Another notable concern is the potential for Glyphosate to contaminate water sources. Runoff from fields treated with Glyphosate can find its way into streams, rivers, and groundwater, posing risks to aquatic life and potentially entering the human food chain.
Glyphosate’s impact on bees
At a time when bees are under increasing pressure from all sides, allowing glyphosate to be used for the next 10 years won’t bode well for one of our key pollinators. There has been a lot of information published about the negative impact of glyphosate on bees.
The EU's Current Stance on Glyphosate (up to December 2023)
Currently, the EU permits the use of Glyphosate within member states, although regulations exist to ensure its responsible usage. On the 19th of September, the EU Commission proposed a draft regulation to renew the approval of glyphosate, subject to some conditions, for another ten years with a view of revisiting it to make a final decision by the 15th of December 2023.
The draft proposal reads that the use of plant protection products containing glyphosate should be minimised or even prohibited in sensitive areas like public parks and gardens, sports and recreation grounds, children’s playgrounds and schools, and in close vicinity of healthcare facilities.
However, EU countries will still have the chance to block the draft regulation as a vote in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food, and Feed (PAFF Committee) will be held this month. So far, only one country has said it will vote against the draft, and that is Germany. The Berlin government has already committed to taking glyphosate off the market by the end of 2023.
While some argue that the existing regulations are sufficient, others contend that they do not adequately address the potential risks associated with Glyphosate.
Existing Regulations and Their Limitations
The EU has set Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for Glyphosate in various food products, aiming to safeguard public health. However, critics argue that these levels may not be stringent enough, potentially allowing excessive Glyphosate residues to enter the food chain and endangering consumers.
The Role of Lobbying in Glyphosate Legislation
Another pertinent factor influencing Glyphosate regulations is the role of lobbying within the EU. The herbicide industry has significant lobbying power, which some assert has influenced the decision-making process and hindered the establishment of stricter regulations.
What Citizens Think about Glyphosate
The EU authorisation of glyphosate ends in December of this year. Manufacturers have requested a renewal. However, with the concerns surrounding the environment and human health, an online poll by PAN-Europe was carried out in six countries on the 15th of September to get feedback on the herbicide.
Respondents were asked the following questions:
“One of the most commonly used pesticides in the EU is called glyphosate. Experts currently disagree on the health risks associated with glyphosate. One public authority has classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen”. Another public authority has classified glyphosate as “probably not carcinogenic”. Given these different opinions, which of the following comes closest to your own view?”
The options were:
- The use of glyphosate should be banned in the EU
- The use of glyphosate in the EU should continue to be allowed
If a qualified majority of member states agree that glyphosate should continue to be allowed, the renewal authorisation will be granted. Some results of the poll have already been released. A small 14 percent of respondents favoured the prolonged use of glyphosate.
Meanwhile, two-thirds (62 percent) responded that the use of glyphosate should be banned. Interestingly, France had the greatest percentage of citizens in favour of a ban on glyphosate.
The Case for a Glyphosate Ban in the EU
Considering the mounting evidence highlighting Glyphosate's potential health risks and environmental impact, we think it is imperative for the EU to seriously consider implementing a ban.
Lessons from Other Countries
Several countries, such as France and Austria, have already taken steps towards banning Glyphosate or severely limiting its usage. Their experiences provide valuable insights into the feasibility and potential benefits of a ban, encouraging the EU to follow suit.
Potential Alternatives to Glyphosate
Banning Glyphosate would promote the research and development of alternative weed control methods in an agricultural setting and would encourage the adoption of more sustainable farming practices. This shift towards safer alternatives would not only mitigate the environmental and health risks associated with Glyphosate but also drive innovation within the agricultural sector. There have already been big advances in non-herbicide-based weed control in agricultural settings, for example with weed zapping and even steam-weed control.
Our Foamstream product would be the perfect solution for filling the gap at the local amenity and community level - Foamstream is used as a completely environmentally friendly weed control solution. Many local councils and authorities have licensed its usage to control weeds growing in public, and it’s even been used in some agricultural environments to great effect, as reported by NewScientist.
Why we hope the EU will reconsider their decision
We think that the health risks and environmental impact of Glyphosate warrant serious consideration by the EU.
By banning Glyphosate, the EU can prioritise the well-being of its citizens, protect the environment, and encourage the development of safer alternatives suitable for agricultural weeding.
Taking proactive measures now will pave the way for a more sustainable and health-conscious future for all.