The European Union has voted for a five-year extension to the license for the weed killer glyphosate – a major component in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides – after two years of bitter debate.
The binding vote on 27 November, which saw 18 countries vote in favour, nine against and one abstaining, came just weeks before glyphosate’s current license was set to expire on 15 December, Nature wrote on the day of the vote.
The herbicide has caused controversy since a 2015 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, found that the substance was “probably carcinogenic” and that there was “convincing evidence” that it caused cancer in laboratory animals.
However, a June 2017 report by Reuters claimed that IARC had disregarded a major study, published in November, that found no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans due to it being unpublished at the time.
Other studies, such as those by the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency, have concluded that there was little if any evidence that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans.
Despite the official EU decision to extend the license, some countries, including France, were nonetheless moving forward with their own restrictions to the use of the substance.
Emmanuel Macron, president of France, tweeted after the vote that glyphosate would be banned in the country as soon as an alternative was found and at latest after three years.
Génon Jensen, executive director of the European NGO Health and Environment Alliance said in a statement that the EU had failed European citizens.
“Ignoring well-founded concerns about glyphosate’s impacts on human health and the European evaluation process will further damage the image of the EU at a time of already high distrust,” he said.
The pro-glyphosate industry was not happy either, as the EU rejected an earlier suggested 10-year extension.
Manufacturers’ association the Glyphosate Task Force said the vote “categorically ignored scientific advice and was mainly influenced by public opinion and driven by politics”.