Intense last-minute lobbying for the herbicide glyphosate to be re-authorised for a full 15-year term is under way in Brussels ahead of an imminent European Commission decision.
Perthshire farmer Ian Sands from Balbeggie, chair of NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) combinable crops committee, and the union’s deputy director of policy, Andrew Bauer, yesterday met UK and Scottish Government representatives along with the European farmers’ unions, Copa-Cogeca.
Member states failed to reach a majority decision in favour of renewing the authorisation at last month’s meeting of the relevant standing committee in Brussels and technical representatives will meet again tomorrow to consider the issue.
Time is pressing because the product’s existing authorisation expires on December 15 and if no qualified majority can be secured for re-authorisation then the decision would be passed to the Appeals Committee of Member States’ political representatives.
Glyphosate has received a clean bill of health from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) however last month, in a non-binding vote, the European Parliament voted against the renewal of the product’s registration and in favour of restrictions on the use of glyphosate by 2018 and its full phasing out by 2022.
Speaking from Brussels, Mr Sands emphasised the importance of glyphosate to the Scottish farming industry.
He said: “The whole credibility of the decision-making process in Brussels would be in jeopardy if the expert committee were to choose political rhetoric over hard, scientific evidence and opt not to reauthorize glyphosate for the full 15 years.”
Last week a letter was sent from the UK’s farming unions to the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker; Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis and Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan. The union has also lobbied all Scottish MEPs and is encouraging members to email or tweet Messrs Junker, Andriukaitis and Hogan to explain just how important glyphosate is to their business.
“With the UN’s Climate Change Conference – COP 23 – taking place in Germany this week, glyphosate is an environmentally-friendly product that politicians and policy-makers can get behind,” Mr Sands said.
“The low carbon release benefits of minimum tillage are best achieved using glyphosate ahead of direct drilling while pre-harvest use on crops aids ripening in challenging climates like ours and significantly cuts down the use of fossil fuels to dry grain.”