EU Member States voted today by a large majority to renew the licence of glyphosate for five years. Twice as many members voted in favour of the herbicide as against.

  • 27
  • NOV
  • 2017

The European Commission’s Appeal Committee, a group of representatives of EU Member States, voted today for the renewal of the approval of glyphosate for five years (18 in favour, 9 against and 1 abstention), according to a spokesperson for Health, Food Safety and Energy Union projects.

Glyphosate is one of a diminishing group of herbicides still able to have some impact on the rampant spread of the suffocating weed, black-grass (above).

Comment from Rothamsted Research

Jonathan Storkey, Plant Ecologist and Leader of Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems (ASSIST), one of Rothamsted’s five strategic research programmes:
"The negative impacts of pesticides on the environment mean that reducing their use should continue to be a policy and research aim. However, the level of food production and affordability of food we have become accustomed to cannot be currently maintained without chemical crop protection products. While every effort should be taken to reduce the risk of pesticides to human health and the environment, therefore, these risks need to be balanced against the benefits they bring in terms of food security.

"In the context of this difficult balancing act, I believe the renewal of the approval of glyphosate is to be cautiously welcomed and is the right decision. In terms of direct toxicity on non-target organisms, it is relatively benign, and it is an important mainstay of weed control. Some weed species that have evolved resistance to other herbicides would become extremely difficult to control without glyphosate and it is particularly useful in cropping systems that minimise soil disturbance which itself brings environmental benefits.

"That said, the scrutiny of glyphosate emphasises the importance of finding ways to control weeds that are less reliant on chemical control – a goal that is a focus of weed scientists at Rothamsted."

Lin Field, insect molecular biologist and Head of Biointeractions and Crop Protection (BCP), one of Rothamsted's four science departments:
“Though my expertise is with insecticides, it’s great to see scientific evidence being taken into account in policy decisions.”

Paul Neve, weed biologist and Leader of Smart Crop Protection (SCP), one of Rothamsted's five strategic research programmes:
“The current debate about the registration and use of pesticides for the protection of crop yields in the European Union emphasises the need for continued efforts to find alternatives to pesticides. Uncontrolled, insect pests, weeds and plant pathogens can have devastating impacts on food production and food security, lowering yields by up to 30%. Current levels of food production cannot be maintained without the use of chemical crop protection products. The EU decision to renew the approval for glyphosate use should be welcomed.

"Compared to alternatives, glyphosate has a benign environmental profile. A large number of rigorous and independent studies have failed to corroborate the report of the UN International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is 'probably carcinogenic'.

"Glyphosate is a critical component of strategies to manage weed species that have evolved resistance to most other available herbicides in the UK and glyphosate is a key component of cropping systems that attempt to limit soil cultivation. These systems deliver a number of environmental and soil health benefits.

"Notwithstanding all this, over-reliance on glyphosate in the UK increases the risk that resistance will evolve, as it has in other parts of the world. The continued scrutiny of pesticide use in the EU, and the inevitable evolution of resistance that arises from over-reliance, make it ever more important to focus on weed control strategies that limit pesticide use.”

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
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We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
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1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

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About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.