Shorter European Glyphosate License Renewal Proposal Opposed By France

French officials say Roundup cancer concerns drive them to oppose a five-year license extension for glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller, which the European Commission is expected to propose today as a compromise to the normal ten-year renewal period. 

If the vote fails, the Monsanto herbicide is likely to be banned in Europe, as the current license for glyphosate is set to expire on December 15.

The proposal requires 16 favorable votes to pass, out of the 28 countries that make up the European Union (EU). However, at a previous vote on November 9, only 14 of the voting members agreed to allow the chemical to remain on the market. Nine members voted against, and five abstained. It is unclear whether any of the countries that voted against the measure or abstained have changed their position.

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In a non-binding vote, the European Parliament has already voted to ban glyphosate by 2022. In addition, on November 20, the European Citizens’ Initiative held a hearing on a petition signed by at least 1.3 million Europeans, which called for a glyphosate ban.

Concerns over glyphosate came to the forefront in March 2015, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that glyphosate used in Roundup and other weedkillers was a probable carcinogen.

The move sparked world-wide concerns about why Monsanto failed to provide warnings and recommend safety precautions for users, and resulted in hundreds of Roundup lawsuits filed in U.S. courts nationwide, each involving similar claims by individuals who say they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other forms of cancer following years of Roundup exposure.

While most of the response in the U.S. has been focused around litigation, many of the key European Union nations, such as France, have pushed for the herbicide to be banned from all use.

The parliament and its environment committee noted that recent events raise questions about whether the EU Food Safety Agency (EFSA) or its chemical agency could be trusted to evaluate glyphosate following the release of documents suggesting they had been influenced by Monsanto.

In early October, all Monsanto lobbyists were banned from contacting EU Members of Parliament or attending committees after the company refused to attend a hearing on whether it had unduly influenced EU officials.

The meeting came after the release of documents, known as the “Monsanto Papers,” which suggest that Monsanto had a very substantial influence over regulators in the U.S. and Europe, and in some cases wrote portions of Roundup safety reviews.

The documents came to light as part of ongoing litigation in the U.S.

Roundup Cancer Lawsuits In the U.S.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all federal Roundup cases in the American federal court system, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California to reduce duplicative discovery, prevent conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the coordinated MDL proceedings, Judge Chhabria has previously determined that the Roundup litigation will be bifurcated, first addressing general causation about the link between the widely used weedkiller and non-Hodgkins lymphoma during a hearing next month, before addressing case-specific issues about whether Roundup caused cancer for each individual plaintiff.

Following resolution of any motions to dismiss based on general causation, if a Roundup settlement or other resolution for the litigation is not reached during the first phase of discovery, it is expected that Judge Chhabria will establish a bellwether process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the lawsuits.


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