By LORNE COOK
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union nations failed on Thursday to agree on the continued use of one of the world’s most widely used weed killers, glyphosate, amid concerns about its possible links to cancer.
EU member nations met to discuss the issue Thursday following a European Parliament vote last month to limit an extension of the license for the weed killer — used in chemical-giant Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide — to five years.
The European Commission has proposed a license extension of 10 years.
Many of the 28 member states that voted — 14 countries — were in favor of the commission’s plan. Five countries abstained, and nine were against. But the votes weren’t enough to renew the license, which expires on Dec. 15.
It’s at least the third time EU countries have failed to secure an agreement.
Greens lawmaker Bart Staes said it’s time “for the European Commission to accept that support for their proposals is not there.”
He said: “The commission must do the right thing and ban this toxic substance.”
Environmentalists have been seeking to ban glyphosate, which the World Health Organization’s cancer agency said in 2015 is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” while the EU’s farmer’s union wants a 15-year extension.
Banning glyphosate outright would shake Europe’s agriculture sector to its foundations, so widely used is the product.
“Once again, we are left in a situation where no decision has been made on the re-authorization of glyphosate — one of the safest plant protection products on the market which secures so much environmental benefit in terms of better soils and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said Guy Smith, from the British National Farmers’ Union.
“We ask the commission to stand by its own science and regulatory procedure, and re-authorize glyphosate for the maximum period possible,” he added.
For the moment, the European Commission plans to push ahead with its proposal. An appeals committee made up of member nations is expected to rule on the vote before the end of November, just a few weeks before the license runs out.
France’s government has lobbied against a lengthy extension on use of the weed killer, despite protests from farmers who say it shouldn’t be banned until there’s a viable alternative.
French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, who rose to fame as the star of a TV nature show, said Wednesday that France would vote against any extension longer than three years.
“We are applying the precautionary principle,” he said on BFM television. “We are not waiting for a list of tragic victims before we act.”
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said Thursday on Radio Classique: “We absolutely must manage to abolish this pesticide. Research and development should find a less toxic substitute as quickly as possible.”
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.