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Majority of MEPs demand a ban on glyphosate weedkiller

A crop sprayer at work in north Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A crop sprayer at work in north Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

A majority of MEPs have demanded that the world’s most widely-used weedkiller should be phased out and banned by the end of 2022.

The European Parliament backed a full ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by December 2022 and recommended immediate restrictions on the use of the chemical, which is a key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling Roundup product.

The non-binding resolution – adopted by 355 votes to 204, with 111 abstentions – opposes the European Commission’s proposal to renew the controversial herbicide’s marketing licence, which EU member states are due to vote on tomorrow, October 25.

Instead, MEPs say the EU should 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 ( such as “integrated pest management systems”) work well for weed control.

The EU risk assessment process before renewing the substance’s licence has been mired in controversy, with the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency and EU food safety and chemicals agencies coming to conflicting conclusions regarding its safety.

While environmental campaigners believe there is enough evidence to ban the product, East Anglian arable farmers say its loss could prompt significant yield losses for winter wheat and barley, and prompt a shift to spring cropping and more cultivations as growers find new ways to control weeds like black-grass without a viable chemical alternative.

READ MORE: EU vote on glyphosate weedkiller could go down to the wire

READ MORE: The pesticide divide: Two sides to the glyphosate debate

East of England MEP Geoffrey Van Orden has campaigned in support of British farmers and for glyphosate use, and voted against the Parliament’s resolution.

He said: “British farmers are the guardians of the countryside. They have emphasised to me the importance of glyphosate in ensuring that they remain productive and competitive.

“Fortunately, today’s vote in Parliament has no legislative weight. However, it may adversely influence others.

“The key vote to decide whether glyphosate should be renewed is expected to take place in the Plant Animal Food and Feed Committee (PAFF) in the Council next Wednesday, November 1.”

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