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More than 1 million Europeans have signed a petition calling for a ban on all glyphosate-based pesticides, amid growing concerns about the health risks of Roundup, Monsanto’s popular weed killer, which has been linked to reports of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of cancer.
The European Citizens Initiative (ECI) issued a press release (PDF) on June 15, announcing that it had gathered enough signatures to force the European Union’s (EU) Commission to issue a formal response. The group says that the petition gathered signatures faster than any petition since the EU established the petition tool in 2012.
The petition to ban Roundup and similar weedkillers has gathered more than one million signatures from EU citizens from all 28 member states in just five months. It calls for a ban of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as well as reforms to the EU’s pesticide approval process and calls for targets to reduce the use of pesticide across the European Union.
Concerns over the link between glyphosate and cancer were raised by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015, when glyphosate was classified as a probable human carcinogen. Although Monsanto has attempted to defend the safety of Roundup, one of the most important products for the company, criticizing the IARC’s decision and dismissing safety concerns as agenda driven and based on “junk science,” a number of leading health experts have called for limits on use of the herbicide and safety precautions for those who regularly spray Roundup.
The European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) has also contradicted the IARC findings, declaring glyphosate to be safe. However, several countries in the EU have moved to ban glyphosate use, despite the European Commission’s decision to extend the license for glyphosate use for 12 to 18 months in late June 2016.
That extension will run out by the end of the year, requiring another vote, and the safety of glyphosate is still heavily debated, with many independent scientists from the EU and the U.S. warning regulators to take the IARC’s cancer concerns seriously.
“European citizens aren’t fooled by the pesticide industry’s lobbying efforts or the faulty science it’s peddling,” David Schwartz, an ECI coordinator, said in the press release. “In less than five months, more than one million EU citizens have joined our call for a glyphosate ban and reduced pesticide use throughout the EU. Our politicians need to hear this message loud and clear: they must protect citizens and the environment by banning this dangerous weedkiller and putting us on the path towards a pesticide-free future.”
ECI says that the European Commission is expected to issue a formal proposal that would renew the glyphosate license for another 10 years before a meeting with government representatives on July 19 and 20. ECI says that it will submit the petition at the beginning of July.
The questions come as Monsanto faces a growing number of Roundup lawsuits filed in the United States by farmers, landscapers and other agricultural workers, each involving claims that exposure to the weedkiller caused the diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other forms of cancer.
Plaintiffs indicate that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the cancer risks with Roundup, yet withheld important warnings and safety precautions from consumers.
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.