Rye News reported on May 30 about the petition organised by the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees to ban the use of pesticides in public places and parks in Rother and in particular the chemical glyphosate.
This herbicide, more commonly known by the name of the Monsanto product “Roundup” is very widely used by farmers to control weeds and more controversially in combination with Monsanto’s genetically modified “Roundup Ready” maize (or corn as it is called in the US).
There is a more detailed article about the glyphosate debate on the Food Tank website
So far about 800 people have signed the petition and some other Local Authorities who have also been petitioned have already banned the use of glyphosate.
There is a growing body of evidence that this very widely used chemical is harmful to human health and some experts say it causes cancer. However, there are many who dispute this including, of course, the agrochemical giant most affected by this decision, Monsanto.
The licence to use glyphosate in Europe expires at the end of June. On June 6 the European Parliament was asked to vote on a proposal to temporarily extend the licence until a final verdict on the toxicity of glyphosate is delivered by the European Union’s Agency for Chemical Products (ECHA).
The proposal failed to win the qualified majority required. This is a setback for the agrochemical industry and a real boost for the global campaign against glyphosate. This is not the end of the story and the Commission can intervene and renew the licence if no clear decision is reached. You can see a recent report from Reuters here.
The final decision on whether to ban glyphosate is therefore postponed, but meanwhile in a statement issued on June 1, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said this:
“Next Monday, Member States will therefore be asked to vote on such a measure (extend the licence). Once again, this is a collective decision. Going beyond these immediate measures, the Commission is preparing a second decision, reviewing the conditions of use of glyphosate. In this decision, I would like to make 3 clear recommendations [my italics] to the Member States:
- Minimise the use in public parks, public playgrounds and gardens;
- Minimise the pre-harvest use of glyphosate
- Ban a co-formulant called POE-tallowamine from glyphosate based products.
The responsibility to introduce such type of measures belongs to the Member State, but I believe this is important to promote sustainable use of pesticides and herbicides.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the ball is now in the Member States’ court.”
It is possible to get a glimpse here of how legislation on pesticide use is being handled at the European level. The UK Government, given a choice, would not ban glyphosate. Cynics might say that the UK government is very unlikely to do anything against the wishes of the National Farmers Union (NFU) whose lobbying activities are mainly financed by the larger UK land owners. When we vote on June 23 in the EU referendum perhaps we should consider if the UK could ever stand up to companies like Monsanto acting on its own or whether the UK government would ever legislate against the wishes of the farming lobby.
In case you have not yet made up your mind on how to vote on the 23rd this website might help as it sets out impartially the case for both REMAIN and LEAVE EUandYOU Website
Christopher Strangeways is an organic farmer and does not use pesticides or herbicides.
Photograph of spraying from foodtank.com and Commissioner from EU parliament.