Decisive action by the European Commission must be taken to reauthorise the use of glyphosate to stop the politicisation of the process says the NFU.

The call came after a vote to reauthorise glyphosate for five years at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) failed to achieve the qualified majority necessary for the proposal to be adopted.

The European Parliament has backed a full ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by December 2022 and immediate restrictions on the use of the substance. It opposed the European Commission’s proposal to renew the controversial herbicide licence for 10 years. Instead, MEPs wanted the EU to draw up plans to phase out the substance, starting with a complete ban on household use and a ban in use for farming when biological alternatives (i.e. “integrated pest management systems”) work well for weed control.

Guy Smith, NFU vice president, said: “Once again we are left in a situation where no decision has been made on the reauthorisation of glyphosate – one of the safest plant protection products on the market which secures so much environmental benefit in terms of better soils and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“Allowing Member States to continue playing politics over this decision despite overwhelming science and evidence showing glyphosate’s safety does nothing but undermine the credibility of the EU’s regulatory bodies and the entire regulatory process.

“We ask the Commission to stand by its own science and regulatory procedure, and re-authorise glyphosate for the maximum period possible. It cannot stand by and allow the issue to be politicised any longer.”

The EU risk assessment process before renewing the substance’s licence was mired in controversy, as the UN cancer agency and EU food safety and chemicals agencies came to different conclusions regarding its safety.

Moreover, the release of the so-called “Monsanto Papers”, internal documents from the company which owns and produces Roundup® , of which glyphosate is the main active substance, shed doubt on the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety, say MEPs.

The EU’s authorisation procedure, including the scientific evaluation of substances, should be based only on published, peer-reviewed and independent studies commissioned by competent public authorities, MEPs say.

Commenting, Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP and member of the European Parlaiment’s Agriculture Committee, said: "Time is running out, but to push through relicencing without the backing of European governments would be to ignore the huge pressure from civil society and from some countries in the EU who want to see this toxic substance banned.

“As Greens we will continue to support a full ban on a substance which is linked to some cancers and damages biodiversity and soil health. We also recognise that farmers need time to adapt to non-chemical farming methods and to be given access to viable and affordable alternatives. A five-year phase out, supported by a majority of MEPs, would give time for this transition.”