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The European Glyphosate battle
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Pesticide spraying is the most usual method in the agroindustry. Photo Pixabay
The European permit for the world's best-selling herbicide glyphosate was set to expire in December 2017. The EU Commission´s proposal to renew it for another 15 years caused a storm of protest. In a review of the last year the Monsanto Tribunal organisation reports about this European battle.
The industry lobby has a massive impact on the authorities
The proposal was based on reports by the food authority EFSA and the German BfR, proven to be highly biased. Part of the text was even copy pasted from a Monsanto lobby group, the Glyphosate Task Force. "The process shows that industry lobbyists have been very successful in creating an industry-friendly environment", asumes the Monsanto Tribunal NGO. The criteria for the assessment of scientific studies that have been adopted exclude all independent studies. This caused EFSA to discard 106 studies as ‘not according to standards’. Instead, they based their advice on secret industry studies, that cannot be verified independently.
Over 1.3 million Europeans signed a citizens' initiative asking for a ban on glyphosate
It comes down to Monsanto ‘proving’ that glyphosate is safe and all studies that say otherwise are ‘not scientific’. So much for the EU food safety regulations (and in the US possibly even worse). Many people were furious. Over 1.3 million Europeans signed a citizens' initiative asking for a ban on glyphosate. "Since this process has exposed the biased role of EU institutions, their credibility is seriously undermined. It has shown that the pesticide approval system has to change, but for the moment it is unfortunately too late for glyphosate", comments the Tribunal.
The EU Parliament asked for a 3-year phase out with help for farmers to change their system of production, but the decision is the mandate of the Council of member states and the EU Commission. A vote by the member states did not bring a qualified majority: main countries like France and Italy opposed a 10-year renewal. In the last voting round for a 5-year renewal, no qualified majority by member states was expected. In which case the Commission would have had the final say and would have given the green light for a 5-year extension. But this was not necessary.
Surprise change by the German Agriculture Minister
By a surprise change by Germany created a majority. Against the will of his Environmental Minister colleague, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt ordered to vote yes. "Apparently the long arm of Bayer-Monsanto reaches right into the German government. ‘This is a scandal, a slap in the face of the environment and consumers,’ said a parliament member.
Although the German vote is contested, most people stated it cannot be undone. But legal specialist Olivier de Schutter thinks there is a way. In a press conference on December 12th, four EU Parliamentarians announced that they will start a legal procedure to annul the vote. Whatever the outcome, glyphosate will now be outfaced in several countries over the next 3 to 5 years. Too late, but much better than ‘toxic business as usual’. Read Olivier de Schutter's legal analysis here.
BT Technique Failure
Not only weeds are beating Monsanto and biotech warfare. A small, thin, gray moth is creating havoc in the cotton fields of India: its larva, a caterpillar – called the pink bollworm for its pink banding – eats the plant. To fight this cotton pest, a gene from a bacteria was introduced in the cotton so the 'Bt plant' produces a toxin that should kill the insect. When GM cotton seeds were introduced to the Indian market 15 years ago, the seed companies said that farmers would not have to spray any insecticides and that they would get great yields. Today, because of the very same GM seeds, use of insecticide and fertilizer has increased fivefold and eaten into farmers' incomes. "Resistance to the poison could not occur, according to the creators of the GM plants. Nature thought otherwise. A huge outbreak of Bt resistant bollworm has now seriously damaged the crops of many farmers. Desperate farmers apply highly toxic pesticides to fight the pest, sometimes with lethal effects", summaraises the report.
Dr. K.R. Kranthi, former director of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), reported that pink bollworm has developed resistance to Bt cotton (Bollgard-II variety) not only in Maharashtra, but in other cotton-growing states as well. Bollgard-II was introduced in 2010. ‘There are only two benefits of Bt cotton. One, it controls bollworm, due to which the yield is protected. Two, it reduces use of insecticides meant for bollworm control. Currently, cotton growers do not get either benefit,’ said Dr. Kranthi.
Veteran farmer leader Pasha Patel says: ‘For Maharashtra’s cotton growers, it’s like a night without dawn.’ Another GM technology is failing. Follow the latest developments on GMWatch website and twitter.
NGO Justice Pesticides
One of the results of the Monsanto Tribunal (MT) was the creation of the NGO Justice Pesticides in July 2017. It aims at making legal data on pesticides cases from all around the world available to all, regardless of people’s status or nationality: neighbors, farmers, local authorities and communities, scientists… Victims of pesticides are, of course, first on that list. The organization is presided by Corinne Lepage. It counts members of the MT organization committee, and people from all continents who have faced the consequences of pesticides on health, natural resources, or their activities. The goal of Justice Pesticides is to create a huge collaborative network to pool pesticide-related legal action data from everywhere in the world. This way, legal and scientific information will foster future lawsuits. Eventually, Justice Pesticides aims for banning pesticides which are threatening human health and the environment.
You can help Justice Pesticides by sharing the legal information you know of via the online form.