The Glyphosate Dilemma: Austria’s Stand Against Prolonged Authorization
Austria’s Vote Against Glyphosate
Austria has declared its intention to vote against a proposal to extend the authorization of the controversial weedkiller, glyphosate, at the EU member states’ vote due in October. This announcement was made by the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, referring back to a resolution passed in the EU subcommittee of the National Council years prior.
Currently, glyphosate is authorized across the EU until December 15. The EU Commission has recommended its reauthorization, which according to the published proposal, would extend the product’s use in the EU for another ten years. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) did not see any issues with reauthorizing the herbicide in its last assessment.
Austria’s Opposition to Glyphosate
Despite the recommendation and the EFSA’s assessment, Austria, bound by a 2017 resolution initiated by the Greens in the EU subcommittee of the National Council, will oppose reauthorization at the EU expert committee level. However, it remains unlikely that Austria will be able to prevent the EU-wide use of the herbicide as a qualified majority is sufficient for reauthorization.
Partial Ban on Glyphosate in Austria
While Austria cannot unilaterally suspend the use of glyphosate, it has managed to enforce a partial ban. In 2021, the National Council approved a ban on its use in sensitive locations such as children’s playgrounds, parks, elderly care facilities, and health institutions. It is also prohibited for home and small garden areas and private use. However, its use in agriculture, where it is most commonly applied, is still permitted.
Reactions to Austria’s Decision
Clemens Stammler, agriculture spokesperson for the Greens, expressed satisfaction with the decision. On the other side, environmental NGO Global 2000 called for a complete rethink of the situation. Glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide, was developed by the US corporation Monsanto, which was later acquired by the German pharmaceutical and agrochemical company Bayer. With the acquisition, Bayer also inherited a wave of lawsuits due to the alleged carcinogenic effects of glyphosate.
Contradictory Views on Glyphosate
Authorities across the globe, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and the European Chemicals Agency, have classified the herbicide as non-carcinogenic. This view is contradicted by many environmental NGOs. The controversy surrounding glyphosate, therefore, continues to fuel debate and uncertainty, highlighting the need for more comprehensive and independent studies on its potential impacts on human health and the environment.
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