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Berlin vows to put up fight against glyphosate re-approval

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German Agriculture Minister Cem ?zdemir said he is against extending the approval of glyphosate as proposed by the European Commission and is lobbying other countries to join his resistance.

After the European Commission made public its proposal to re-approve the widely used and contentious herbicide for a period of 10 years, ?zdemir – a vocal opponent of the approval – made it clear that he has not given up the fight.

“As long as it cannot be ruled out that glyphosate harms biodiversity, its approval in the EU should be phased out,” the Green minister told Euractiv on Wednesday (20 September).

“A diverse and intact plant and animal world is the prerequisite for safe harvests today and in ten, 20 or 50 years time,” he added.

The ecotoxicology of glyphosate, that is, the risk it poses to plants and animals by making its way into the natural environment, is one of the areas on which the assessment published this summer by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that there is not enough scientific data available to draw sound conclusions.

According to ?zdemir, the German government is currently lobbying other countries to win them over on the matter.

“We do not decide on our own whether glyphosate will be taken off the market,” he said. “This is why we are in intensive talks on this with our partners in the EU.”

Is a blocking coalition feasible?

Member states are set to vote on the Commission’s proposal during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF committee) in October.

If a majority of the countries’ representatives do not vote in favour of the Commission proposal during this meeting, an appeal body has to be convened, which could delay the process.

However, the regulation can ultimately only be blocked if a qualified majority of member states vote against it.

This means that at least 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the EU population would have to not only abstain but actively vote against the Commission’s draft re-approval – a high bar.

While a high-ranking EU official said on Wednesday that in the course of the talks between EU countries and the Commission, only one member state said it would vote against the draft (without specifying which one), this could still change if Germany ramps up its lobbying efforts.

For example, Luxembourg saw its nationwide glyphosate ban toppled by a court in April, which ruled the country had not made clear enough why the unilateral ban was warranted for a substance approved for the EU market.

However, even if all six countries that abstained or voted against a decision on the temporary re-approval of glyphosate in December last year rejected the proposal this time, this would still not nearly meet the threshold.

Germany’s national ban at stake

?zdemir has previously voiced severe criticism of EFSA’s glyphosate assessment, saying the agency did not take into account “key aspects.”

Meanwhile, the German government could also face similar legal hurdles as Luxembourg did if the EU approval of glyphosate is extended beyond the end of 2023.

According to the coalition agreement, Berlin wants to “take glyphosate off the market” nationwide from the end of this year. However, a ban on herbicides based on glyphosate would only be possible under very specific conditions as long as the EU approval remains in place.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Nathalie Weatherald]

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