Roundup Will Only Be Re-licensed in EU If Majority of Member States Agree, Commission Says

Amid continuing debate about the potential link between Roundup exposure and cancer within the scientific community, European regulators indicate that they will not reauthorize the use of the glyphosate-based weed killer unless a majority of member states agree. 

European Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis made a statement on Monday, at a meeting of European Union (EU) agricultural officials, indicating that the European Commission will not re-authorize the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, if most member states object, even though his agency believes the herbicide is safe.

The statement comes amid conflicting scientific opinions about the risk of non-Hodkins lymphoma and other cancers from Roundup, and questions about the degree of influence Monsanto has had over prior decisions made by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe.

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Worldwide debate began about the safety of Roundup after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Although Monsanto has continued to defend the safety of Roundup, calling the IARC findings junk science, experts worldwide have voiced concerns and recent evidence uncovered during on-going Roundup litigation in the United States suggests that the manufacturer has manipulated data and that regulators may have relied too heavily on industry-sponsored research.

The re-authorization of glyphosate in Europe is problematic, even after the statement by Andriukaitis. The original license expired in June 2016, but so far, in previous efforts, the EU has been unable to reach a consensus. What’s more, there has never been a majority of member states voting for or against glyphosate reapproval because France and Germany have abstained from voting. This resulted in the chemical getting an 18-month extension, which expires in December 2017.

The European Commission has proposed giving Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides a 10-year extension. It came to this conclusion after the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) determined that glyphosate should not be considered a carcinogen. If the member states reject that proposal, glyphosate use would be effectively banned throughout Europe. However, the European Commission’s decisions on glyphosate are now coming under scrutiny.

Earlier this month, a group of European Parliament members sent a letter to the U.S. judge presiding over the Roundup litigation, asking to be provided copies of the so-called “Monsanto Papers,” which link the company to the “ghostwriting” of studies about the safety of Roundup and it’s active ingredient, glyphosate. They are also asking for documents suggesting that Jess Rowlands, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), worked with the company to hide evidence of links between glyphosate and cancer.

The EU members’ letter came in response to information disclosed during the discovery process in the Roundup litigation, including documents that suggested a former EPA official, Jess Rowland, reassured Monsanto that there would be no pesticide review for glyphosate.

Rowland reportedly even wrote that he “should get a medal” for protecting the company’s product. The documents also indicated that Monsanto had ghostwritten academic research articles indicating Roundup was safe and then paid other researchers to put their name on the bogus studies.

The letter from members of the European Parliament also outline concerns about the independence of their own regulators, indicating that Monsanto and the pesticide industry had advance access to a safety assessment of glyphosate conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2015, and even were able to edit the documents at the last minute.

As U.S. and foreign regulators continue to debate the safety of the weedkiller, hundreds of Roundup lawsuits are proceeding through the American court system, involving allegations that farmers, landscapers and other individuals regularly exposed to glyphosate developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancers. Plaintiffs maintain that they may have avoided the diagnosis if Monsanto had provided warnings and instructions about appropriate safety precautions.

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