The European Union’s food safety agency announced on Thursday that it found no critical areas of concern in the use of the controversial chemical herbicide glyphosate.

This ruling was welcomed by companies seeking to extend the use of the chemical beyond December, but harshly condemned by environmentalists who view it as a threat to nature and human health.

Over the past decade, glyphosate, which is used in products like the weedkiller Roundup, has been at the center of a heated debate about its potential carcinogenic effects and disruptive impact on the environment.

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The European Union’s executive commission and member states must reach a full agreement on whether to extend the authorization of glyphosate’s use in the 27-nation bloc, partially based on the advice provided on Thursday.

The European Food Safety Authority conducted a detailed scientific review and stated that there were no critical areas of concern in assessing the impact of glyphosate on the health of humans, animals, and the environment. It defined a concern as critical when it affects all proposed uses of the active substance.

European Union flags

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 28, 2022.
(REUTERS/Yves Herman//File Photo)

The EFSA stated that the European Chemicals Agency concluded last year that glyphosate could not be classified as a carcinogenic substance. However, the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015.

“For years, evidence of glyphosate’s toxicity for people and the environment has been accumulating, but the European food safety authority has once again chosen to ignore it,” said Eva Corral of the environmental group Greenpeace.

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Angeliki Lysimachou, a researcher at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said that the EFSA’s advice “defies all logic.” Many new independent studies demonstrate the negative impacts of glyphosate on health and the environment.

The Glyphosate Renewal Group, a consortium of eight companies including agro giants like Bayer Agriculture and Syngenta Crop Protection, stated that the EFSA’s statement would facilitate the successful re-approval of glyphosate in the EU, aligning with conclusions made by leading health regulatory bodies worldwide over the past 50 years.

This marks the second day in a row that the EU has dealt a blow to environmentalists. While the United States and other countries quickly adopted new bioengineered technologies, the EU had been conservative toward the use of genetically modified organisms for decades.

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On Wednesday, the bloc took a step toward embracing the latest gene techniques to improve crop production. The EU stated that the new technique would seek to modify organisms in a less intrusive manner than previous GMOs, allowing many to be sold without special labeling. It hopes that this approach will help address global challenges such as climate change and shortages.

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