Strong signals are emerging from Brussels that EU president Jean Claude Juncker will stand by scientific conclusions on the safety of glyphosate.
Mr Juncker’s reported position follows a heightening of pressure, both from farming organisations who are desperate to see the weed killer relicensed for a full 15 years, and groups which want it banned because they believe it could be carcinogenic.
Reports were quoting a letter the EU president sent to Green and Socialist MEPs in which he is said to say: “I believe that the EU regulatory system is robust and ensures protection for humans and the environment.”
The MEPs had written to Mr Juncker last month complaining about the use of industry-funded research in the assessment of the product.
NFU Scotland chief executive, Scott Walker he confirmed he had picked up “strong signals” in Brussels that an extension would be granted to the glyphosate licence.
“We had several off the record discussions with individuals who are involved in the approval process who suggested an extension was looking very likely,” he said.
“What is still in doubt is the length of time.”
European farm lobby group, Copa and Cogeca piled pressure on Mr Juncker earlier this week, urging the Commission to re-authorise the herbicide’s use for 15 years, after the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave it a positive scientific assessment.
The group’s secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said: “Both ECHA and EFSA have issued opinions based on strong scientific evidence highlighting that there are no safety concerns regarding the use of glyphosate in crop production. We believe it is essential to respect these opinions and maintain trust in EFSA and the high standards that EU producers meet. Questioning EU science-based decision-making processes will only have an adverse impact on the credibility of the EU authorities and undermine our high safety standards”.
In his letter to the MEPs, Mr Juncker is said to state there was “no reason” to question the scientific assessments and conclusions on glyphosate in the EU and that discussions would resume with member states ahead of a decision by the end of 2017.
Industry observers believe the Commission is expected to act well before the end of the year. Meanwhile a citizens’ charter document is collecting signatures on a petition for a product ban.