Germany’s weed killer approval gets a withering response from its EU neighbors

Protestors against pesticide, Brussels, Nov 27.
Protestors against pesticide, Brussels, Nov 27.
Image: REUTERS/Yves Herman
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European Union countries found themselves at odds on Monday over weed killer. After a long deadlock over renewing the license for pesticide glyphosate—and despite 1.3 million Europeans signing a petition to ban it—Germany cast the deciding vote, allowing it be licensed for another five years. France, Italy, Austria, and Belgium were all against it.

In Germany, the Social Democrats—totally against the use of glyphosate—were furious with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. They accused the German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt, who cast the deciding “yes” vote in Brussels, of going back on what they had agreed.

This is bad news for Merkel, considering Germany still doesn’t have a government and these two parties—currently in a caretaker government together—are at the very early stages of thinking about forming a coalition again.

The German chancellor in turn is vexed with Schmidt for okaying the pesticide-license off his own bat —and rebuked him Tuesday, saying: “Schmidt’s decision went against agreements we have made in government—these also apply to the current caretaker government.”

Glyphosate is the world’s best-selling weed killer, and an active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up weed killer. It was deemed “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. The European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency have both said it is safe, but the controversy hasn’t abated.

French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted that France will search for alternatives to glyphosate and ban it domestically within three years at most. The Italian agriculture minister Maurizio Martina said Italy would also aim to ban the herbicide within three years.