The days of Roundup in Europe are numbered. The EU Parliament voted on Tuesday for the controversial herbicide glyphosate, the main component of the omnipresent Roundup, to be banned by 2022. There are serious concerns about the impact the chemical has on human health, particularly considering its near ubiquity in agriculture today.
Despite the legislation being non-binding, the prohibition of the substance was passed by 355 votes to 204, with 111 abstentions. The impact of this vote has already been felt, as when it came time for the European Commission to renew the license for glyphosate, they did so for between five and seven years – a shorter-than-usual length of time.
The executive body of the EU was initially expected to extend the license for another decade, but backtracked after strong opposition from within the European Parliament as well as from the public.
The lead up to the vote this week has been particularly bitter. The weed killer is widely used, not only in Europe but in many other parts of the world. A recent study found that 45 percent of Europe’s topsoil contained the residue of the substance, while another that came out on the same day as the vote found that levels of glyphosate has doubled in Americans over the two decades it has been used on crops.
Unsurprisingly, the largest manufacturer of glyphosate, Monsanto, have been attempting to push back against the ban. However, the attempt backfired somewhat for the company. In the lead up to the vote, MEPs decided to ban Monsanto lobbyists from even entering the European Parliament after the representatives of the company failed to show up at an inquiry looking into whether or not Monsanto had been interfering with scientific research on the health impacts of glyphosate.
Clearly, there has been much controversy over what glyphosate may or may not do to our health. The World Health Organization found in 2015 that the substance is “probably carcinogenic to humans”, and yet the weed killer is still one of the most heavily used. It is thought that in the UK alone, at least 60 percent of all bread consumed has traces of the chemical, while three-quarters of Germans tested had five times the legal limit of the stuff in their pee.
As a result, over a million people signed a petition delivered to Brussels asking for an immediate ban. While the EU has not gone that far, they are building in time for replacements to be found and then brought into use.