More than one million Europeans stand up against Glyphosate
Fastest-growing European Citizens’ Initiative demonstrates huge societal concern about pesticides
(15 June 2017, Brussels)
Glyphosate is the key ingredient of the most widely used and most heavily applied herbicide worldwide, Monsanto's Roundup Ready. It has also been proven to have Endocrine Disrupting properties, which adds reason for concern regarding its hazardousness. Two years ago, the World Health Organization’s cancer authority (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. This sparked a wide public and political debate on whether the most widely used weedkiller should stay on the shelves. Many countries, communities, and businesses have already taken - or are considering taking - action to restrict glyphosate use. However, national regulators in the U.S. and EU have historically maintained that glyphosate is 'safe'.
European Union regulations prohibit the use of herbicides when there is “sufficient evidence in animals” that links it to cancer, based on WHO criteria. According to WHO experts, glyphosate fulfils these criteria. However, in November 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed – partly based on a review of unpublished industry-funded studies – that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that glyphosate can cause cancer.
Based on the EFSA conclusion, the European Commission proposed renewing glyphosate’s licence for 15 years. However, following a public outcry, the proposal did not receive sufficient backing by national governments and the Commission eventually extended the current approval to 18 months. It will have to revisit this decision and determine the long-term fate of the glyphosate licence before the end of 2017. In the meantime, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is expected to publish an assessment on the safety of glyphosate in summer 2017.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has recently announced its intention to renew the EU glyphosate licence for another 10 years. It is expected to issue a formal proposal ahead of a discussion with EU government representatives on . EU governments will be invited to vote on this proposal after the summer. Based on the outcome, the Commission will take a final decision before the end of the year when the current EU glyphosate licence runs out.
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to ban Glyphosate emerged in January 2017 as a response to the decision to grant glyphosate a lycense renewal by EU authorities. It is backed by a pan-European coalition of over 100 organisations throughout the EU, and coordinated by WeMove.EU. The ECI organisers call on the Commission to respect the signatories’ demands by refusing a new licence for glyphosate, to reform the EU pesticide approval process, and to set mandatory targets to reduce pesticide use in the EU.
So far, more than one million Europeans have signed the ECI across all 28 EU member states, achieving the requirements set by the EU in less than five months and making it the fastest-growing ECI since the EU introduced this tool in 2012. The European Commission is now legally required to respond to Europeans’ demands and consider them in its upcoming decisions.
The ECI organisers will submit the signatures at the beginning of July, in order to require the Commission to formally respond before the final decision on a new glyphosate licence is made. The petition will remain open so that people still have the opportunity to speak out against glyphosate and in favour of reduced pesticide use in the EU.
PAN Europe is particularly excited about the outcome of this ECI, not only because this is tangible proof that European citizens are evermore concerned with the health impact and environmental sustainability of the agrichemical-dependent EU agricultural model, but also becuase the citizens' united voice will hopefully push EU institutions to start taking steps toward the implementation of a new agricultural model geared in the interest of human and environmental health through the safeguard of biodiversity.
"The European authorities are failing us. Instead of protecting people's health and the environment from harmful pesticides like glyphosate products, they choose to put the interests of the industry first, perpetuating in this way a food production system that comes with a serious health cost. European citizens are now standing together and calling for the regulators to take decisive action, starting with a total ban on the use of glyphosate products”, says Angeliki Lyssimachou PhD, Environmental Scientist at PAN Europe.
David Schwartz, ECI Coordinator at WeMove.EU commented: "European citizens aren’t fooled by the pesticide industry’s lobbying efforts or the faulty science it’s peddling. In less than five months, more than one million EU citizens have joined our call for a glyphosate ban and reduced pesticide use throughout the EU. Our politicians need to hear this message loud and clear: they must protect citizens and the environment by banning this dangerous weedkiller and putting us on the path towards a pesticide-free future".