EU glyphosate decision by Germany's minister of agriculture Christian Schmidt (CSU)
EU lobbyism to the detriment of human health and environment
By Ingeborg Cernaj, 2017-12-07
28 November 2017 in Brussels, Germany's Minister for Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, CDU, voted in the EU-Commission for the prolonged approval of glyphosate. Thus, for another five years, farmers can use glyphosate for agricultural production.
Support for this decision came particularly from the agricultural industry. This minister's decision was contested for different reasons at the same time.
First and foremost, Mr. Schmidt decided to contradict the declared will of Germany's Minister for Environment, Barbara Hendricks from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who functions in an acting capacity since the federal elections in September 2017 as no new coalition has been able to be formed. Ms Hendricks has unmistakably declined further approval of glyphosate.
In Europe, glyphosate itself is actually perhaps not yet quite so dangerous for human health. Results from studies dealing with this topic are conflicting. While the IARC declares glyphosate a "probable carcinogen", scientists from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in cooperation with the Pesticide Unit in Italy came to the conclusion "that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic based on current knowledge". Less involved authors came to the conclusion that a reappraisal of glyphosate is required as "estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate (...) are based on outdated science".
However, there is another issue to add: glyphosate and other herbicides are most likely responsible for the steep decline of pollinators and other insects. A few weeks away, Caspar Hallmann and collegues from the Radboud University, Nijmengen/Netherlands, reported a decline of more than 75 percent in total flying insect since 1990 in Germany. There are good reasons to prohibit glyphosate, not so much because of actual existent danger for human health but because of massive threat for biodiversity and environment, which may - directly or indirectly - turn into real threat for humans. The debate about glyphosate as carcinogenic is ongoing and controversial. However, even if scientific evidence for the correlation of health danger to humans and the industrial usage of glyphosate is still pending, 1,070,865 citizens of the European Union have expressed their concern and urged the European Commission in a public campaign to consider glyphosate's prohibition.
The decision of Germany's minister for agriculture is even more troubling in face of Monsanto's strong involvement in the process where the company's lobby representatives were banned from entering the European Parliament (EP) due to Monsanto's refusal to appear for a hearing on the matter of glyphosate as ZEIT and the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported as recently as end of September this year.
The question is less about Mr. Schmidt's voting for glyphosate but rather what we learn about the influence of lobbyism in the policy making of the European Union (EU).
There are good reasons to maintain the usage of glyphosate for another few years as there is a great number of other herbicides available which are much less tested and policy regulated than glyphosate. European farmers are accustomed to work with herbicides. With no glyphosate available, they would most likely use other herbicide. The results may be more risky than using glyphosate.
The lesson we have to learn: Before withdrawing glyphosate from the market there is an urgent need to withdraw all the other existing herbicides. And because farmers are not prepared yet to cultivate ecologically correct products, they are in need of support now. The government is in charge of financial support of farmers who are willing to switch to ecological production.
Image: © European Union, 2017