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EU extends glyphosate approval, but France plans a ban

EU extends glyphosate approval, but France plans a ban

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FILE PHOTO: Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller on display at a garden shop at Bonneuil-Sur-Marne

Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller atomizers are displayed for sale at a garden shop at Bonneuil-Sur-Marne near Paris, France June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

BRUSSELS • The European Union has approved a five-year extension of the use of glyphosate, but French President Emmanuel Macron says he plans to ban the weedkiller in his country.

After a drawn-out process, the EU backed the extension with a qualified majority. Glyphosate’s license was due to expire in mid-December.

Germany cast a surprise vote for the extension, a move that divided the caretaker government in Berlin and could have repercussions on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s negotiations to form a grand coalition between Christian Democrats and Socialists. France remained opposed.

Macron said Monday that he would take all measures necessary to ban glyphosate in France as soon as an alternative is available and in three years at the latest.

Macron announced the move on Twitter. He ended his tweet by writing: #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain.

Environmentalists had hoped for an immediate EU ban. They claim that the weedkiller, used in Monsanto’s Roundup, is linked to cancer.

Farmers, who say the substance is safe, had wanted a 15-year extension. EU nations had failed to find a compromise until Monday.

EU health and food safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said that “when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making.”

One official said that 18 member states voted in favor, 9 against and one abstained.

“The decision taken today by a narrow qualified majority of Member States has locked the EU into another five years of toxic agriculture,” said Bart Staes, a Green Party member of the European Parliament. “This is a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment.”

A ban on the widely used chemical would have shaken Europe’s agriculture sector. Pekka Pesonen, president of the Copa-Cogeca farmer group, welcomed the limited extension but insisted that glyphosate “should have been reauthorized for 15 years after it was given a positive assessment by both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency.”

Politically, Monday’s approval proved toxic in Berlin.

Germany voted for the extension over the objection of Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, who said she had told Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt by phone Monday that she was against it.

Schmidt, whose Christian Social Union is the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told the Rheinische Post that Germany had voted for the agreement because of conditions that will “strengthen the role of biodiversity and animal protection.”

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