Brussels – In just five weeks, almost half a million Europeans have signed a petition calling on the European Commission to ban the controversial weedkiller glyphosate. On Wednesday, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) may dismiss a warning by the World Health Organisation linking glyphosate to cancer.
A broad, pan-European coalition of 38 organisations from 15 countries launched the European Citizens’ Initiative on 8 February. The signatories call on the European Commission to ban glyphosate, reform the EU pesticide approval process and set mandatory EU targets to reduce pesticide use.
The Commission must consider the petition if at least one million EU citizens have signed it within one year, reaching minimum thresholds in at least seven countries.
Glyphosate is the world’s most heavily used weedkiller and has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation’s top cancer agency, IARC.
Health and environmental organisations have raised concerns about conflicts of interest in the ECHA committee responsible for assessing glyphosate, and criticised ECHA’s reliance on unpublished industry studies.
EU regulations prohibit the use of pesticides when there is sufficient evidence in laboratory animals that these substances can cause cancer, based on IARC’s scientific criteria. According to IARC, glyphosate fulfils these criteria. Nevertheless, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dismissed IARC’s cancer findings, pointing to unpublished studies unavailable to the IARC experts.
In 2016, the European Commission proposed to re-approve glyphosate for 15 years, based on the EFSA assessment. However, a public outcry and insufficient backing from national governments forced the Commission to issue only an 18-month extension until the end of 2017, pending a safety assessment by ECHA.
Please find further background on the glyphosate decision-making process here.
For more information on the #StopGlyphosate petition, please visit www.stopglyphosate.org.
Franziska Achterberg – Greenpeace EU food policy director, +32 (0)498 362403,
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,
Diana G. Smith – Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) communications and media advisor: +33 (0)6 33 04 29 43