Monsanto vs. People Power: EU Glyphosate License Set to Expire June 30
The European Commission failed for a third time last week to secure the support of a majority of EU governments for an extension of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and other herbicides.
Global watchdog group Sum Of Us has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures from concerned citizens seeking a ban on glyphosate in Europe.
EU sources told Reuters that France and Malta voted against the re-approval and seven countries, including Germany, Italy and Austria, abstained.
Objection to the widely used pesticide is based on the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) March 2015 assessment that “probably" causes cancer in humans.
Due to the impasse, the European Commission will now have the final say on whether or not the controversial weedkiller remains on Europe's shelves. Commissioners are meeting in Brussels today to discuss glyphosate's fate in Europe.
The clock is ticking as the EU's current approval of glyphosate is set to expire in three days. If the executives do not extend the license by June 30, manufacturers have six months to phase out glyphosate products.
Media reports indicate that the European Commission will likely settle on a “technical extension" of glyphosate for 12-18 months, an "11th hour" compromise that the commission had already proposed in early June to buy time for yet another study assessing whether or not glyphosate causes cancer.
EU Fails to Approve 'Technical Extension' for Weed-Killer #Glyphosate https://t.co/OUeT28HiBJ @nongmoreport @GreensEP @foodandwater @nutiva— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1465222742.0
European opinion is sharply divided on whether or not glyphosate causes cancer or if it's an environmental risk. Monsanto has consistently maintained the safety of its blockbuster product. Reuters reported that the agritech giant has not ruled out legal appeal if the license is not extended. Jonas Oxgaard, senior analyst at investment bank Bernstein, told the publication that Monsanto could lose earnings of up to $100 million if the EU were to halt glyphosate sales.
But the fact that the commission originally proposed to extend glyphosate for another 15 years but has now whittled it down to a temporary approval highlights the chemical's uncertain fate on the continent.
SumOfUs, a global consumer watchdog, is celebrating the latest failed vote. "We're one step away from a glyphosate-free EU," the group writes in an online petition urging member states to "deal the final blow and reject any extension of the glyphosate license."
Greenpeace has also called on the European Commission to prepare a glyphosate exit plan.
“The Commission is about to give glyphosate an unreasonable grace period, which will continue to leave people and nature exposed to the controversial weedkiller," Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said. "It should use this time to draw up a glyphosate exit plan. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in Europe and has been linked to serious health concerns and loss of wildlife. It's time for Europe to plan for a glyphosate-free future."
Commenting on the continued deadlock over glyphosate in Brussels, Green Party MEP Bart Staes said, "If the UK referendum has made one thing clear, it is that the EU needs to finally start listening to its citizens again."
"The Commission must now back down and revoke the approval for glyphosate. Forcing through the authorization would raise major democratic concerns about the EU's decision-making process. The process of phasing out glyphosate and other toxic herbicides and pesticides from agriculture must begin now, and this means reorienting the EU's Common Agricultural Policy towards a more sustainable agricultural model and a Common Food Policy."
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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