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The European Union Parliament has called for tougher restrictions on the use of Roundup and other weed killers containing the chemical glyphosate, indicating that it should only be used by professionals and that approval for the controversial chemical should only be extended for a short time, so that concerns about the cancer risk can be re-examined.
Amid warnings about the link between Roundup and cancer issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year, the countries of Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands opposed the renewal of a 15-year license for glyphosate at a meeting in March. The current license could expire in June 2016 if the chemical is not re-approved.
In a vote of 347 to 225, the European parliament urged glyphosate restrictions and called for Roundup and other similar weedkillers to only be renewed for seven years.
While the parliament resolution vote is non-binding, it is expected to heavily influence a European Union (EU) pesticides committee that is scheduled to meet May 18-19 to determine the relicensing of glyphosate.
The resolution calls for Roundup to be limited to professional use, which is likely due to the greater availability and use of safety precautions among farm workers, landscapers and other industrial uses, compared to homeowners spraying the chemical around their house.
Parliament also calls for a reassessment of glyphosate much earlier than normal, which would look at the chemical’s overall toxicity, cancer risks and endocrine disrupting properties.
The Netherlands has called for renewal of the license to wait until after a glyphosate safety evaluation is completed next year.
The use of glyphosate has skyrocketed in recent years, amid Monsanto’s marketing strategy of creating “Roundup Ready” genetically modified seeds for crops, which are designed to withstand heavy use of the herbicide, but have resulted in more and more of the herbicide being sprayed on farm lands.
To date, about 18.9 billion pounds of glyphosate have been sprayed on the world’s crops, according to estimates of a recent study. Researchers found that glyphosate use has increased almost 15-fold since the introduction of “Roundup Ready” crops in 1996.
Over the past year, Monsanto has been attempting to defend the safety of Roundup, dismissing concerns about their blockbuster product and suggesting that the WHO’s conclusions were agenda driven and based on “junk science.”
Members of European parliament called for the release of all scientific evidence to help resolve the issue of glyphosate safety.
But concerns are not just limited to Europe. In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will begin monitoring glyphosate residue in certain foods, which it has never done before.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.
In all that time, the FDA has never tested for residue or buildup in the food sold to Americans nationwide. In a report published in 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the FDA for this deficiency in its pesticide program.
Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits in the United States, typically involving individuals diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide as a farm or agricultural worker. The complaints allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a cancer diagnosis if they had been warned about the Roundup risks, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.
In addition, a growing number of states and cities throughout the U.S. have enacted bans or limits on Roundup use over the past year.