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HEAL’s view on the Parliament resolution on glyphosate

HEAL positive about parts of Parliament resolution on glyphosate The recent EP resolution on glyphosate re-approval clearly told the Commission that it has overstepped its powers with its recent proposal. The non legally-binding resolution recommends some important use limitations such as removing it from public areas, and from sale to private individuals. It also calls for strict limits on pre-harvest use, and no use where integrated pest management is adequate for weed control. The resolution recommends the Commission’s 15 year proposal for re-authorisation for seven years.

Brussels, 13 April 2016 – The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says today’s vote on glyphosate re-approval shows that MEPs want the Commission and Member States to better protect the health of citizens, and that the Commission’s outrageous proposal exceeded its powers.

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Advisor for HEAL says:
’’HEAL is pleased that the MEPs voted to stop use in public areas (playgrounds and parks), and to stop non professional uses. But its important to note that these limitations to the license will not be enough to fully address the risks of people’s exposure to a massively used probable carcinogen and possible endocrine disruptor’’.

She adds: ’’The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has shown that EFSA is not infallible, and if EFSA had done as good a job as IARC, glyphosate could not legally be renewed in the EU’’.

The Parliament vote is not legally binding, but conveys Parliament views to the Commission. The next official step in the legal decision-making procedure on glyphosate’s EU licence is that the representatives of EU Member States meet in the so-called Standing Committee on Pesticides (PAFF) on April 19-20, to discuss and decide on the Commission’s adjusted proposal. The Commission was unable to get PAFF agreement to its original proposal in early March.

Ahead of the vote, HEAL joined other NGOs asking MEPs to support this objection because of serious health concerns.

Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe), Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), Slow Food and Greenpeace are asking MEPs to support this objection because of serious health and environmental concerns, which have been raised by the scientific community.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used in agriculture, forests, public areas and private gardens. The use of this substance is so extensive that it is now detected in food, drinks and in the human body (including babies and young children).

Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen”. However, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) said in November 2015 that there was no scientific evidence of any cancer link.

Glyphosate may also disrupt the human hormone system – EFSA and leading scientists have called for further investigation. Both its cancer causing and hormone disrupting properties would disqualify glyphosate from EU market approval under EU pesticides law. In addition, there are “many environmental, plant health and soil-ecosystem problems associated with heavy and repeated uses of glyphosate-based herbicides” according to the scientists.

Despite these serious concerns, the European Commission’s initial proposal

- is for the maximum period possible (15 years),

- bans only one of the nearly 500 possible co-formulants, polyethoxylated (POE)-tallowamine, already no longer used in Germany, one of Europe’s largest pesticides markets,

- allows a 66% increase in residues on food.

- allows glyphosate producers to prove the absence of hormone disruption after obtaining approval, a practice deemed inappropriate by the EU Ombudsman for this sort of case.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which is formally responsible for the EU carcinogen classification, is about to review the possible carcinogenicity, germ cell mutagenicity and reproductive toxicity of glyphosate. That process will not be finalised before end of 2017.

It is our strong view that the EU should not take any final decision before the potential health and environmental impacts of glyphosate have been fully established, including its potential to cause cancer and affect the endocrine system. In addition, the EU should immediately ban all uses of glyphosate that result in the greatest public and worker exposure, either directly or through residues in food.

Therefore we call on MEPs to vote in favor of the objection to the Commission’s ill-considered proposal for glyphosate renewal and stand for the protection of human health, environment, and safer farming for all agricultural communities.


In March 2015, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen’ based on ‘limited evidence’ in humans and ‘sufficient evidence’ in animals that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans. IARC has also found ‘strong evidence’ that glyphosate exhibits two characteristics associated with carcinogens, namely genotoxicity and the ability to induce oxidative stress.

In November 2015, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) arrived at the opposite conclusion. It stated that evidence in humans is ‘very limited’ and that there is ‘no evidence’ of carcinogenicity in animals. EFSA also dismissed the evidence of genotoxicity and oxidative stress. EFSA had access to at least three additional industry studies that IARC had not seen, and that José Tarazona, head of EFSA’s Pesticides Unit, described as “key” and “pivotal”.

However, 94 independent scientists – including 8 out of 17 members of the IARC Working Group – argue in a recent editorialthat: “Serious flaws in the scientific evaluation in the RAR incorrectly characterise the potential for a carcinogenic hazard from exposure to glyphosate.”

The EU Ombudsman has recently slammed the European Commission’s practice of accepting proof of a pesticide’s safety after its formal approval. She said the practice should be applied “restrictively” and only “where there is no risk that the conclusion on the safety of the active substance could be flawed”. Nonetheless, the European Commission has proposed to “submit confirmatory information as regards the absence of endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effect in humans” by 1 August 2016, whereas the current EU approval runs out on 30 June 2016.

Glyphosate residues have been found in bread and beer, as well as human urine. EFSA has stated that existing monitoring efforts are insufficient to reliably measure glyphosate residue levels in food.

Widespread use of glyphosate has led to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds, causing farmers to spray additional herbicides. It can also “significantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defense to pathogens and diseases, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use,” according to Johal and Huber, 2009. The scientists warned that “ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious”.

Last updated on 22 April 2016

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


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