NEWS: MEPs vote to re-authorise glyphosate with restrictions
Published 15 Apr 2016
The European Parliament’s vote in favour of a resolution to approve glyphosate for 7 instead of 15 years and support for a ban on its use in public places have been given a cautious welcome by Breast Cancer UK.
The European Commission had put forward a draft proposal to renew EU market approval for glyphosate for 15 years, without non-professional use restrictions. However, MEPs voted this week to renew for just 7 years, and to restrict licenses for professional use only (1). The non-binding resolution also called for glyphosate to be banned for use in or close to public parks, public playgrounds and public gardens, and that pre-harvest applications should be limited.
Breast Cancer UK is especially concerned about glyphosate’s possible role in increasing breast cancer risk. Glyphosate acts as an oestrogen mimic (2) and has the ability to inhibit aromatase (an enzyme involved in oestrogen biosynthesis) (3), and therefore has the potential to adversely affect breast development.
Lynn Ladbrook, CEO of Breast Cancer UK said “We are pleased that MEPs have recognised the uncertainties that surround glyphosate. We especially welcome support for banning glyphosate in public spaces, as this will help protect vulnerable populations such as young children and pregnant women. However, It is our strong view that the EU should not take any final decision on glyphosate before the potential health and environmental impacts of glyphosate have been fully established.”
Glyphosate was recently classified by the World Health Organisation as a probable carcinogen. It is widespread in the environment and in humans, and contamination of food crops in the UK is common (4).
MEPs also called for pre-harvest applications to be limited and described as “unacceptable” the application of glyphosate to crop plants prior to harvest, as a means of accelerating ripening and facilitating harvesting. Breast Cancer UK welcomes this restriction as it could help reduce significantly glyphosate exposures from food.
MEPs also called for an independent review of the overall toxicity and classification of glyphosate, based on data relating to carcinogenicity and possible endocrine-disruptive properties, and in the light of its pending classification by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Breast Cancer UK welcomes this proposal, given the discrepancy between the WHO’s classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” and EFSA’s view that it is “probably not carcinogenic” and support their request to make public the documents upon which EFSA’s conclusion was based
In a separate development last week, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has called for a national ban on certain glyphosate formulations, because of uncertainty over possible health risks (5).
A final decision on reauthorisation of glyphosate will be taken in May when national experts sitting in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed will vote on the Commission’s proposal. If there is no qualified majority, the final decision on glyphosate reauthorisation will be taken by the European Commission.
The use of glyphosate in farming and on crops will continue to pose a potential health risk to everyone. Breast Cancer UK believes that its use should be heavily restricted, until such time as its toxicity, including its hormone disrupting properties, can be properly and independently assessed and demonstrated to be safe.
Read Breast Cancer UK’s background briefing on Glyphosate here
Read Breast Cancer UK’s letter to MEPs ahead of the Plenary vote on 13th April 2016.
1. EU votes to reauthorise Glyphosate announcement: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160407IPR21781/Glyphosate-authorise-for-just-seven-years-and-professional-uses-only-urge-MEPs
2. Thongprakaisang S, et al. (2013) Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food and Chemical Toxicology 59C: 129-136. Defarge, N. (2016). Co-Formulants in Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Disrupt Aromatase Activity in Human Cells below Toxic Levels. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13(3) 264
3. Defarge, N. (2016). Co-Formulants in Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Disrupt Aromatase Activity in Human Cells below Toxic Levels. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13(3) 264.
4 Breast Cancer UK’s background briefing on Glyphosate
5. France’s ANSES call for a national ban on certain glyphosate formulations, http://www.agweek.com/news/business-and-technology/4005000-france-ban-some-glyphosate-weedkillers-health-concerns