Jun. 23, 2016
The day before the EU is due to make a momentous decision about the future of glyphosate
, the Soil Association has published a review of the scientific research on the impact of glyphosate on soil and soil life.
The Soil Association claims new evidence suggests the most widely used agricultural chemical in the world may not be safe for soil life, as previously claimed.
The Association is calling on the EU to ban the use of glyphosate on crops immediately before harvest and to ban all use in public spaces and gardens.
Scientists are concerned about glyphosate’s potential impacts in increasing crop diseases and changing the composition and functioning of soil micro-organisms and ecosystems.
Recently published studies have also found negative impacts on earthworms. Scientists working in this field are calling for further research to be carried out.
"This is urgent given the widespread and heavy use of glyphosate worldwide," the Soil Association said.
'Little is known about its environmental impact'
Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association said: "There is another very important vote taking place on Thursday.
"Given how long glyphosate has been in use, its extraordinary how little is known about its environmental impact.
"This ignorance – and indications of potential new problems – adds weight to the demands for a ban on glyphosate based on the threat it poses to human health.
"Our soils are vulnerable and threatened – any potential threat to soil health needs to be taken very seriously.
"Some scientists have claimed UK soils may only have 100 harvests left and two all-party Parliamentary committees3 have released reports on soil health in the past few weeks.
"As a minimum, we are calling on EU Member States to implement the recommendations of the European Parliament, and ban the use of glyphosate on crops immediately before harvest, and to ban all use in public spaces and gardens.
"Used in huge quantities on farms, in public parks and in gardens all over the world, glyphosate has long been claimed to be the safest pesticide, with no impact on people, wildlife or soil health.
"Supporters have long claimed it is ‘safe enough to drink’, but last year, the World Health Organization listed glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen."
The European Union has twice failed to agree to authorise it’s continued use. The licence for the use of glyphosate in the EU expires at the end of June.
Last month, the European Parliament voted to restrict glyphosate’s use, signalling a blow to farmers who rely on it. France has independently decided to ban glyphosate.
Germany, whose scientists carried out the study for the EU that cleared glyphosate, did not vote in favour of continued use.
The vote to reapprove the license has been postponed twice now, and on Monday 6 June, a proposed compromise to extend glyphosate’s licence by up to 18 months also failed to win support.
"In the event that glyphosate is banned across the EU, there are other alternatives available to farmers to manage and reduce weeds – organic farmers are already controlling weeds without any herbicides whatsoever.
"A ban on glyphosate may also provide an incentive for more research and innovation," the Soil Association said.
'Losing glyphosate would cost UK 630m euros annually'
"I have been using glyphosate on my arable farm for 40 years to produce quality grain used for bread-making," said NFU Vice President Guy Smith.
Many farmers have expressed major disappointment of the failure to deliver an opinion on re-authorising glyphosate.
"Pre-harvest use in particular ensures the highest quality for bread and saves money and CO2 emissions compared to drying the crop after harvest.
"Losing glyphosate would cost the UK economy alone 630 million euros annually, making us less competitive to farmers in non-EU countries who have good access to these tools," Guy Smith added.
Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen added: "Based on the unanimous mandate from all Copa and Cogeca members, we call for an extension of the approval of glyphosate for the next 15 years.
"Farmers need to have cost-effective and sustainable tools available to ensure safe, reliable and affordable food."
Mr Smith added: "Like most farmers who use glyphosate regularly on my farm I am nothing short of exasperated as to why this key herbicide cannot simply and quickly be given the reauthorisation that has been recommended by EFSA - the appropriate EU scientific body.
"Some member states in the committee are prevaricating and wasting time when they could be taking decisions based on scientific evidence.
"Glyphosate is a pesticide which allows farmers to combat weeds while supporting cultivation methods that can preserve good soil structure. There is no sense behind this delay."