Glyphosate: the next steps

Guest Blog by UKIP Agriculture Spokesman Stuart Agnew MEP

The recent findings of the ECHA are to be welcomed, but the path from here is far from smooth…

I have received a lot of emails and letters about the possible ban on glyphosate.

It will be well known by now that in March 2017 the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) found that the active ingredient did not meet the criteria for being a carcinogen, supporting the findings of the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) and contradicting the controversial findings of the IARC.

The stage is, therefore, set for the Commission to move to reauthorise glyphosate, which it would ideally move to do for the maximum period possible in order to avoid a repeat of this debacle before time.

However, the legislation governing active ingredient renewals suggests that the Commission now needs to submit its draft proposal for reauthorisation back to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) for approval.

This was the body that failed to make a decision last time, leading to the temporary approval that is currently ongoing pending full re-approval.

This is because politics inevitably gets involved in decision making in SCoPAFF: the committee is made up of representatives of the national governments of the Member States.

Thus, despite the ECHA decision representing a battle win, it is clear that the war is far from over. On its return to SCoPAFF, the vote on the proposal will be on the basis of Qualified Majority Voting.

This means that in order to pass, 55% of member states (i.e. 16 out of 28) and representing 65% of the EU’s population must vote in favour. A blocking minority of 4 Member States representing more than 35% of the population can scupper this, or Member States can abstain so that no decision is reached.

This is what happened in 2016, when 7 Member States abstained, resulting in the current temporary extension and postponement of decision for the ECHA report. STUART AGNEW MEP 1 A quick look at the maths of the Member States voting in Council shows that the known anti-glyphos (France 13%, Netherlands 3.4% and Sweden 2%) make up 18% already. Germany, with 16% of the population, and Italy, with 12%, and both with vocal anti-glypho lobbies, voting against would be enough for a blocking minority.

However, as occurred last year, abstentions would produce a similar non-approval situation and the decision would fall back to the Appeals Committee of the Council (again a political decision), and then failing a decision again, back to the Commission for a final determination.

And all of this while the European Parliament could move again for a Resolution appealing to the Commission to take citizens’ supposed concerns into account (how many them would still be concerned if there was a food shortage ongoing at the present time?).

The temporary re-approval will expire at the end of 2017 so a decision is needed without delay. The last Commission President was particularly critical of member states “hiding” behind the committee procedure to avoid making difficult decisions on matters such as genetic modification and chemicals re-approval. Ex-President Juncker said that this was “not democracy”, but this belies the democratic deficit of the Commission powers which have supposedly been given to it by the Member States.

The Commission may again become the fall guy for this difficult decision on glyphosate renewal, but political leadership in difficult decisions is a prerequisite of any functioning administrative body. While the EU has responsibility for chemicals regulation decisions, it is the EU that must act.

It is worth remembering that even following re-approval, Member States are entitled to legislate at national level as to the use of approved active ingredients in plant protection products on their territories. Member States who are concerned can enact national restrictions, such as on recreational usage, accordingly.

The cynic in me notes that the farcical charade of trying to find democratic consensus on this simple issue amongst 28 countries further damages the credibility of the EU project as a whole and reaffirms that we are better off out. If the Commission now fails to act in accordance with the considered opinion of its advisory bodies, it inflicts another wound into the whole system of harmonised legislation, perhaps even mortally so if the decision making process becomes gripped by political paralysis.

On the other hand, whilst UK farmers absolutely do not want non-approval of glyphosate, if a ban is coming at EU level, as a secondary measure we don’t want any nonapproval affecting us prior to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

In this context, any delay is a potentially useful one. But this is where I introduce a note of caution STUART AGNEW MEP 2 though: currently chemicals approval is devolved to the European Commission and the twin bodies of EFSA and ECHA, and we urgently need an understanding of which body will take over from these in the UK after Brexit. Any EU level restriction on glyphosate, and the protracted and inefficient committee approval processes, must not be copied over to the UK under the clumsy and constitutionally catastrophic auspices of the Great Repeal Bill.

I will write to Minister George Eustace to ask for clarification on this – what we absolutely do not want is the convoluted EU process to be used as the UK approvals process even on an interim basis. A clean break is essential so that when we leave the EU, decisions can be made quickly and on the basis of best available science and risk assessment. Our farmers must be able to rely on this essential farm chemistry without protracted and intransigent political wrangling.

Motivation to attack the credibility of glyphosate is largely driven by an irrational fear of GM technology and the anti-corporate agenda irresponsibly fuelled by the green lobby conspiracists in certain Member States.

I urge all farmers and concerned parties to use whatever means available to them to help spread the broader message about the value glyphosate brings to farming and food security, particularly conservation agriculture practices. Social media and Facebook are good for getting the message across, particularly as to the minimal relative toxicity of glyphosate compared to everyday substances such as table salt and caffeine.

Please keep lobbying your MEPs and MPs for their support too and invite them to see glyphosate working on your farms. I will continue to be a voice of reason in this debate, but it can make a real difference if there are multiple voices uniting in support of common sense.

We know now that the scientific consensus is overwhelming in favour of the responsible usage of this chemical. The data is there and the safeguards are there. Brexit may give us the lifeline we need, but within the restrictions of the current legislative framework, it would be preferable if the Commission simply drew an end to this debacle an and allowed us to get on and farm.

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16 Responses to Glyphosate: the next steps

  1. catalanbrian says:

    I agree with your views on the use of glyphosate in that it is a useful and, as far as I can see, a generally harmless herbicide provided that it is used properly. However I do worry about its use as a dessicant just before harvest which ensures that there must be a considerable residue left on the grains which will of course make its way into the food chain. What are your views on this matter?

  2. MIKE MAUNDER says:

    I am no chemist or farmer, but I am a gardener, ( When the spirit moves me and the weather is OK ) I had an area at the bottom of the garden, that had been left for years, and all manner of weeds and nettles had taken over. Being in the Winter of Life, I decided to try to clear, using a Glyphosate for the first time. Nothing seemed to happen for the first month. Then I noticed that all the families of weeds just gave up, leaving just brambles to be cleared by hand, and they looked to be in a poor condition. Job done with little effort, and no doubt crop farmers are happy to use Glyphosate. However, I have noticed that for the last two years, very little weed growth has been seen, without further treatment. I wonder if the use of this anti weed chemical might be overused in farming, and if so, could the chemical build in the soil and enter the crop to the harm of us all ?

    • KennieD says:

      I also wonder if the chemical remains in the ground and then into the food chain. There has been such an increase in such a wide range of cancers over the last few decades, which coincidently, has seen the rise in the use of chemicals on the land and in food/drink production. Smoking is not the cause of everything.
      Following todays “breaking news” about the drug (promadol?) which was given to women in the 1960s & 70s to help check for pregnancies and the horrendous later side effects, which were hidden from the public, it makes you wonder what else has been covered up by the powerfull global companies & their henchmen.

  3. Dung says:

    You have helped me make my mind up Roger; your useless miandering EU centric waffle is about the same as the rest of UKIP right now and so I will resign my membership and if necessary remain without a party.

    • KennieD says:

      Hi Dung,
      I too have decided not to renew my membership. My reason is because I sent in a question by way of UKIP website invitation, nearly 2 months ago, and have been totally ignored. Not even an acknowledgement.
      I did have such great hopes for UKIP , but now they seem to have become invisible and cannot even challenge the ridiculous Labour party or even the treachorous lib dems.

  4. MIKE MAUNDER says:

    Well Roger, I have just renewed my membership by phone to darkest Devon. UKIP have made so many mistakes, plus just bad luck. UKIP is just so necessary right now. They should be in the negotiations on Brexit, but we know that is impossible, but with the next election looking to be at full term in 2020, some way out of the left / right nonsense that we have in UK/GB should be given, and that is UKIP’s challenge for the future. Local Council Elections are important, but the General Election is what counts. Kennie and Dung may have decided to back off on their support, but I am in for the long haul with the few years I have left to me. I have never been a supporter of any Political party until I fell into my 70s., but I’m not budging, as I know what is right !

  5. MIKE MAUNDER says:

    ROGER. Just rereading on this blog, it’s a good laugh at the expense of UKIP detractors. We used to be called the one issue party, and with that issue partly won, what possible use is UKIP. ? Your comments show the wide angle of interest, and possible action on so many political and hear and now items of life, that could be brought into Government, who knows, if enough people break with their past voting practise, anything is possible. – Viva the floating voter. He/She is the one to make a future Government. ( I can’t be the only one who evaluates manifestoes, and votes on the power of that.). More power to you Roger, and UKIP. You have a reader of your blogs !

  6. Any product made by these big phama companies is made for one thing only. Profit. They couldn’t care less what damage they do to the environment Go ask the farmers of India what they think about this harmless pesticide. and how 77% of their water is undrinkable.

  7. vanorman2016 says:

    If anyone thinks that chemicals are good or OK check out what the chemical companies are doing and the results on humans on one of the small Hawaiian islands. All the chemical companies are there. Just one result, babies born with intestines outside their bodies. Humans, animals and the earth are in danger.

  8. Richard says:

    “We know now that the scientific consensus is overwhelming”.

    Seriously? You now use the same phraseology as the doom-laden CO2 is evil clap-trap? You disappoint.

    In true science there is no such thing as consensus.

    Repeat: You disappoint.

  9. I’m very disappointed in your view regarding the use of glyphosate in farming. In India its use
    has caused a lot of problems. Stop using chemicals on the land they’re destroying the world . Of course if you’ve got shares in these poisons or you don’t see the harm ,then you’ll be ok with them . Carry on regardless .

    • MIKE MAUNDER says:

      Shareholders in chemical companies should not be shot. They should be given a good shaking, so that they understand that there is more to being a shareholder than just getting the payout. They have families too, and it might be a good idea if they followed what the company is up to. Vanorman and Leslie, I agree with you, but the big problem is greed mixed with ignorance. Shareholding is good, but requires interest in the company !

    • catweazle666 says:

      “Stop using chemicals on the land they’re destroying the world”

      Oh, I seriously doubt it.

      The World has survived collisions with massive asteroids so I doubt a few thousand tons of weed killer is going to inconvenience it even slightly.

      Of course, if we ceased to use chemicals on the land, over a century of massive increase in agricultural production will be reversed, production of essential foods will crash and the Earth’s population will decrease by a huge amount, some experts claim 75% or more.

      Does that not bother you?

      • KennieD says:

        catweazle666,
        Do they use glyphosate and other chemicals on your planet of origin?

      • catalanbrian says:

        He certainly uses it on his cornflakes in the morning!

      • catweazle666 says:

        “Do they use glyphosate and other chemicals on your planet of origin?”

        Yep, they sure do, have done for many, many decades, resulting in my planet being able to support much higher numbers of inhabitants?.

        And guess what – I really don’t think my planet is going to be destroyed as a result.

        Has it ever occurred to you that you do your cause no good whatsoever by making such outrageous, entirely unproven statements, and that the vast majority of thje population are going to consider that you are not quite a full shilling?

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