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France, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands Rebel Against Relicensing of Monsanto's Glyphosate

A number of European Union member countries are rebelling against the European Commission's plans to approve the relicensing of glyphosate.

The Guardian reported that experts from the EU’s 28 member states are scheduled to vote on relicensing glyphosate on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels, however the vote may be postponed due to reservations that several EU countries have over glyphosate's health risks.

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's top-selling weedkiller Roundup, was classified by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a "possible carcinogen" last March, whereas the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) put out their own report in November, concluding that that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.”

France, The Netherlands, Sweden and Italy have raised concerns about the herbicide and have pushed against relicensing.

French Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royal urges for an outright ban on glyphosate herbicides across the EU, basing the decision over the IARC's findings.

Similarly, The Guardian quoted Swedish environment minister Åsa Romson saying, “We won’t take risks with glyphosate and we don’t think that the analysis done so far is good enough. We will propose that no decision is taken until further analysis has been done and the EFSA scientists have been more transparent about their considerations.”

"We are raising concerns because our citizens are raising concerns," Romson added. "They want to feel safe and secure with food and production in our society.”

The Netherlands also called for a postponement of the EU-wide decision with Marcel van Beusekom, a spokesman for the Netherlands agriculture ministry, commenting, “If there is no possibility to postpone the vote, then we will vote against the proposal.”

Commission officials told The Guardian that a vote would not go ahead if support for relicensing continued to erode.

“If we see that many states want to think it over or there is a growing [opposition], if there is not a qualified majority, I doubt that it will be put to a vote,” one official said. “The ball is in the member states’ court.”

Licensing for glyphosate ends in June and the European Commission is proposing to grant the herbicide a new 15-year lease.

This move by France and their EU partners is a major blow to Monsanto and other large pesticide companies "which rely on glyphosate-based herbicides for a large percentage of their global profits," Sustainable Pulse wrote.

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Indeed, as EcoWatch reported last month, glyphosate is now the “most widely applied pesticide worldwide.” The paper, Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally, revealed that since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S., making up 19 percent of the 8.6 billion kilograms (or 18.9 billion pounds) of glyphosate used around the world.

The substance is so widely used that it is commonly found in British bread, German beer and the urine of people in 18 countries across Europe, The Guardian said, adding that the chemical is banned or restricted in large parts of Europe because of alleged links to health problems such as birth defects, kidney failure, celiac disease, colitis and autism.

The contradictory conclusions from THE IARC and EFSA regarding the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate spurred 96 prominent scientists from 25 countries to write a letter in strong opposition to the EFSA report.

In addition, nearly 1.5 million people petitioning the EU’s health commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, for a ban on the substance, Sustainable Pulse reported.

According to The Guardian, "an EFSA panel based its recommendation that glyphosate was safe enough for a new lease of life on six industry-funded studies that have not been fully published."

This video from the Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-profit corporate lobbying research group, alleges that Big Food corporations and biotech companies, including Monsanto, might have intimate ties with EFSA:

Environmental group Greenpeace has spoken out against the potential relicensing of glyphosate in Europe.

“EU governments seem more concerned about maintaining today’s destructive agricultural practices than protecting the health of people and the environment," Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said in a statement. "For a long time, glyphosate was thought to be safe. Now more and more scientific evidence tells us that it's a serious threat to our health and the environment. Ignoring this evidence for another 15 years will cost us dearly. Europe needs an exit strategy from chemical pesticides and a move towards ecological farming."

Global food advocacy nonprofit Slow Food is also demanding European governments reject the re-approval of glyphosate.

“There’s no room for compromise,” Carlo Petrini, Slow Food International president, said in a statement. “We have to decide whether the future of food is to be in the hands of the chemical industry with its promises to feed the planet—which, judging from the hundreds of thousands of tons of glyphosate sold every year, is a guise for evident economic interests—or of a policy that has the health of consumers and environmental welfare at heart.”

Monsanto is facing slumping profits and a slew of lawsuits alleging that exposure to glyphosate causes cancer. The St. Louis-based biotech giant maintains the safety of their flagship product and the chemical, and has demanded the World Health Organization retract their report.

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