The European Commission has referred its proposal for a five-year re-authorisation of glyphosate after the current 15 December deadline to an appeals committee after EU member states failed to agree on the issue last week.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Monday, IFA grain chairman Liam Dunne warned: “Without it [glyphosate], we would probably see an immediate drop of 30% in European production, which would lead to huge volatility in grain markets across the world.”
Dunne called on European leaders to follow science and keep the herbicide active ingredient on the market, arguing that concerns over its potential links with cancer concerned only one formulation which was no longer allowed.
“It was the additive that was put with it that was the problem,” he said. The additive,POE-tallowamine, was banned as a co-formulant of glyphosate in Europe last year.
Dunne added that glyphosate had been used widely for more than 40 years, with no problems detected.
We have to prove that it is safe before we can use it
Dr Cara Augustenborg of the environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth countered that there was no certainty that glyphosate does not cause cancer. “In Europe, we apply the precautionary principle, which means we have to prove that it is safe before we can use it and so far we haven’t done that,” she said. She added that glyphosate was found in 45% of European soils and two thirds of urine tested in German people.
Dr Augustenborg added that any potential drop in food production from reduced pesticide use could be compensated for by tackling food waste. She also argued that widespread use of glyphosate and other pesticides such as neonicotinoid insecticides had depleted the populations of pollinator insects essential to food production, including a 50% decline in bee numbers.
Dunne said that this was incorrect in the case of glyphosate, with is used to target grass weeds that are not flowering plants and “do not support pollinators in any shape or form”.