EU Court Nixes Brussels Suit Over Dangerous Herbicide Glyphosate

A woman, wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19, walks along Cinquantenaire park in Brussels on Oct. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

(CN) — Europe’s highest court on Thursday tossed out a challenge from Brussels to the European Commission decision that lets Europeans use glyphosate-based herbicides known to harm bees.

Not reaching the merits of the case, the European Court of Justice determined that Brussels has no grounds to mount the challenge as a regional government.

Glyphosate-based herbicides, most famously Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, are a highly contentious issue in Europe as they have been linked to cancer and environmental contamination. Their use is banned in several local areas, and many European countries — including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria — have plans to forbid them or have restricted their use.

Brussels passed its own ban on glyphosate-based herbicides in 2016 as part of zero-pesticides policy, and it filed suit when the European Commission decided the following year to extend approval of glyphosate-based herbicides through Dec. 15, 2022. 

It brought its case to the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg, a lower EU court that hears cases brought against EU institutions. 

In February 2019, the General Court ruled against the Brussels Capital Region, saying the regional government had no standing to challenge the commission’s decision. The Brussels government appealed that decision to the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court. 

In line with the General Court, the Court of Justice said the Brussels government lacks standing to bring suit against the commission. Though EU law gives national governments a lot of latitude in challenging EU regulations, the bar is higher for local and regional governments. In this case, the court said the Brussels Capital Region had not shown that the glyphosate rule directly affected it and left it without the ability to ban its use in its region. 

The Brussels government argued that it should be allowed to challenge the glyphosate decision under the Aarhus Convention, which the EU adopted in 2005. That convention states that the public should have greater access to justice in environmental matters. But the EU court said the convention does not prevail over EU law.

The court rejected the region’s argument that the EU rule put its regional ban at risk. 

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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