Roundup might be taken off shelves by the year's end. Two votes by the European commission on relicensing glyphosate have been deadlocked and an agreement this year is considered unlikely.
One official was quoted as saying: “Our position is clear. If we can reach a qualified majority on a text we will go ahead. Otherwise, we have to leave the authorisation to expire and on 30 June member states will need to start withdrawing products containing glyphosate from the market.” In fact, a 6-12 month grace period is expected to be granted before products will have to be removed from sale.
Under EU law, the failure of the Commission standing committee to reach agreement means that the issue can be referred to an appeals committee but, with national alignments unlikely to change there is little hope of a change in outcome. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has the power to impose a draft measure over the commission's head, but he is unwilling do so on the issue of glyphosate.
There have been major disagreements among public authorities on the glyphosate issue. A WHO scientific evaluation, which collated hundreds of international peer-reviewed studies on the effects of glyphosate on human health, concluded it was 'probably' carcinogenic. The European food safety authority (Efsa) contested this finding, but came under fire as conflict-of-interest allegations undermined its position. Similarly, a recent UN statement defending glyphosate's safety record was not taken seriously by European commission members, because the chair Prof. Alan Boobis and co-chair Prof. Angelo Moretto are both key members of the International Life Science Institute (ISLI), a pesticide-funded think-tank.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide and the world's most widely-used spray. Its use in GM crops has vastly increased the annual volume sprayed. In Germany, a recent study by the Heinrich Böll Foundation found that 99.6% of people tested had glyphosate residue in their urine. A third recorded levels between 10 and 42 times the legal limit of drinking water, while children recorded the highest levels. A poll among EU citizens in April found that two-thirds wanted the chemical banned.