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Huge setback for 'safest ever' pesticide

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Huge setback for 'safest ever' pesticide

The Soil Association claimed a victory today in the campaign to stop glyphosate being sprayed on wheat before it makes its way into British bread.  Today (13 April 2016) the European Parliament has voted in favour of re-authorising the use of glyphosate but has limited this approval to seven years – with a number of significant restrictions. This includes strict limitations on pre-harvest dessication, which has been the focus of the Soil Association’s Not in Our Bread Campaign.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely sold weedkiller and has been claimed to be completely safe by the pesticide industry. Since last year, the Soil Association’s ‘Not in my Bread’ campaign has been calling for a UK ban on the use of glyphosate on wheat as a pre-harvest weed-killer and as a desiccant to allow faster harvesting.   Today the EU Parliament, in an advisory vote, has called ‘for restrictions on use in agricultural fields shortly before harvesting’, calling such uses ‘unacceptable’.  

In addition, the Parliament also called for ‘full disclosure of the scientific evidence behind an assessment of glyphosate by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)‘ – overturning over 50 years of unpublished, industry funded studies being used in secret to get pesticides authorised in countries like the UK.

In a dramatic move which will give heart to local campaigners all over the world,  the EU Parliament proposed banning the use of glyphosate in public spaces, calling for ‘a ban on all uses of glyphosate-based herbicides in private and public green areas, including spraying in and around public parks, playgrounds and gardens’. 

Significantly, the EU Parliament proposed halving the extension of the license called for by the pesticide industry from 15 years to 7.

Peter Melchett policy director of the Soil Association said: ‘Just a few months ago everyone assumed that glyphosate would sail through re-authorisation in the EU without any problems. The decisions by the Parliament today are a dramatic blow not just to the future use of glyphosate but to the pesticide industry generally.’

374 MEPs supported the resolution, with 225 against and 102 abstaining, according to the European Parliament Committee on Environment.

Last year, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded ‘Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans’. The newly recognised dangers of glyphosate come against a background of increased use in the UK. Glyphosate is widely used in public parks and other urban areas to kill weeds. In the last year for which government figures are available, nearly a third of UK cereals, wheat and barley, were sprayed with glyphosate – a total of just over one million hectares.

Find out more about the Soil Association's Not in Our Bread campaign to get a permanent ban on pre-harvest use of glyphosate.