International toxicity assessments & independence

European Glyphosate Review  - Timeline to June 2016.

12 November 2015. Europe’s Food Safety Authority announce ‘Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance glyphosate.’  Commission Regulation (EU) No 1141/2010  EFSA recommended an increase in the glyphosate ADI based 2 unpublished studies dated 1991 and 1996.  

27 November 2015. 96 Scientists write to Commissioner Andriukaitis to advise concern over the EFSA decision,  (based on the German Renewal Assessment Report (RAR), which was comprised of studies supplied on behalf of industry group Glyphosate Task Force, by Monsanto, and excluded many studies included in the published literature. Many studies supplied to the GTF have not been published and are not available for public scrutiny. 

1 December 2105:  EFSA Executive Director Bernard Url addresses European parliament’s environment committee.

13 January 2016. EFSA Executive Director Bernard Url response to the 27 November letter 2016. 

22 February 2016.  European Ombudsman criticized the Directory of Health (DG Sante) for maladministration, authorising pesticides with data gaps in their evaluation that may have serious consequences for human and environmental health. Case: 12/2013/MDC

2 March 2016. European Parliament’s Environment Committee facilitates Expert Debate on Glyphosate in the European Parliament.

2 March 2016. European based NGOs: Global 2000, PAN Europe, PAN UK, Generations Futures, Nature et Progrès Belgique and Wemove.EU sue Monsanto and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) for 'allegedly distorting scientific data on the carcinogenic effects of controversial weedkiller glyphosate.'

3 March 2016. 94 scientists published ‘Differences in the carcinogenic evaluation of glyphosate between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Portier et al. 

4 March 2016. France announces it will vote against EU re-licensing of glyphosate. Netherlands parliament oppose EU re-licensing of glyphosate until separate evaluation held. Swedish environment minister advises analysis to date insufficient. Guardian.

8 March 2016. Vote to re-license glyphosate postponed.

22 March 2016. European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) voted through a resolution, 38 votes to 6 (with 18 abstentions), to block the European Commission’s renewal of a 15 year authorisation for use in the EU of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide and pesticide. The decision has been made as a result of “serious concerns on [glyphosate’s] carcinogenicity and endocrine disruptive properties.” ENVI called on the Commission to ‘commission an independent review and disclose all the scientific evidence EFSA used to assess glyphosate’.

13 April 2016. The European parliament voted to adopt resolutions. The Ecologist advised 'While the 374 to 225 vote is non-binding on the Commission and EU governments, it will nonetheless carry strong moral weight since it comes from the EU's only elected body directly representing EU citizens and will force a discussion of the issues raised.'

European Parliament news advised that the resolutions included:

  • The EU Commission should renew its marketing approval for just 7 years, instead of 15
  • Glyphosate based herbicides are utilised professional uses only - the EU Commision should not approve any non-professional uses of glyphosate
  • MEPs call for an independent review and the publication of all the scientific evidence that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used to assess glyphosate.
  • Advice that it should reassess its approval of glyphosate in the light of its pending classification by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), under separate legislation. ECHA, based in Helsinki, is likely to advise in 2017.
  • Requirement that the Commission table a new draft in order to better address the sustainable use of herbicides containing glyphosate and also to launch an independent review of the overall toxicity and classification of glyphosate, based not only on data relating to carcinogenicity but also on possible endocrine-disruptive properties.
  • A demand for more transparency in the science used to prove safety of glyphosate. MEPs urge the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority to “immediately disclose all the scientific evidence that has been a basis for the positive classification of glyphosate and the proposed re-authorisation, given the overriding public interest in disclosure”.
  • MEPs also condemn as “unacceptable” the use of glyphosate in a farming practice known as “green burndown”, (pre-harvest treatment, desiccation) i.e. the killing of the actual crop plant prior to harvest in order to accelerate ripening and facilitate harvesting. This practice leads inter alia to increased human exposure.
  • Glyphosate should not be approved for use in or close to public parks, public playgrounds and public gardens.

21 April 2016. Munich Environmental Institute (Umweltinstitut München) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Germany join Global 2000, PAN Europe, PAN UK, Generations Futures, Nature et Progrès Belgique and Wemove.EU (see March 2). PAN Europe advised 'The EU environmental organizations, in an initiative taken by Global 2000 Austria file new evidence to the state attorney in Berlin today showing that the responsible institutions misinterpreted research studies during the assessment procedure in order to conceal the carcinogenic risks associated with glyphosate and facilitate its re-approval.'

The Munich Environmental Institute joined the coalition after testing glyphosate in beer and detecting the probable carcinogen in all samples tested. Germany has Beer Purity Laws, a series of regulations which limit ingredients in beer.

18 May 2016. Next meeting scheduled of the  Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (Phytopharmaceuticals Section) to vote to adopt or reject the Commission proposal by qualified majority. If no majority, the decision passes to the European Commission.

6 June 2016. The European Commission had proposed a 'technical extension' of the current approval until after the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) delivered its opinion on glyphosate towards the end of 2017. There was insufficient support at a meeting of the EU standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed to obtain the extension.

The EC qualified majority vote (QMV) requires 55% of countries which represent 65% of the EU population to adopt or reject a proposal in order for a vote to succeed.

20 June 2016 (estimated). To committee of appeal.. The European Chemical Agency will also be asked to give its scientific assessment on the substance.The European approval for glyphosate was due to expire late June 2016.

24 June 2016. Committee of appeal fail to reach a QMV either for or against the re-authorisation of glyphosate. Instead, the EU member states voted on the proposal to extend the current approval of glyphosate for a limited period of time, until the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) gives an opinion on the substance.

29 June 2016. The European Commission Press Release database advised on a glyphosate fact sheet:

The Commission adopted the extension of the current approval of glyphosate for a limited period until the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) has concluded its review (before end 2017) - since Member States failed to take responsibility (no qualified majority was reached at either the Standing Committee or the Appeal Committee).

In parallel to the extension of the approval, the Commission has already presented to Member States a series of recommendations on the use of glyphosate. Discussions with the Member States have started at expert level, and the Commission will work to have them adopted as soon as possible. The decision will contain three clear recommendations:

1) ban a co-formulant called POE-tallowamine from glyphosate based products;
2) minimise the use of the substance in public parks, public playgrounds and gardens;
3) minimise the pre-harvest use of glyphosate.

It must be noted that it is primarily the responsibility of Member States to decide upon and enforce such measures.

End press release.

NOTE: The above EC recommendations are not binding or restrictive, and many other ingredients in the final glyphosate formulation are toxic, in addition to POE-tallowamine.

End 2017: European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) expected to finalise evaluation of glyphosate.

Further reading: EU member states fail to back re-authorisation of glyphosate