UK farming unions call for glyphosate re-registration

NFU Scotland, and other UK farming unions, have joined forces to fight off desperate last minute attempts by campaigners to thwart the re-registration of glyphosate.

The unions have jointly written to the European Commission and key UK Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to urge them to reject efforts by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee and others to undermine this re-registration.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide and is widely and safely used here in Scotland, both to control weeds and as a tool to ripen grain.

It is also approved for the control of weeds along riverbanks, including invasive species such as giant hogweed, because its properties means it is less likely to leach into the water, and if it does get into water it is easily removed in water treatment works

The European Food Safety Authority – the key advisor to the European Union on pesticide safety – concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”. This echoed earlier conclusions reached by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany, which conducted the detailed review of glyphosate in the earlier stages of the re-registration process

Anti-pesticide campaigners and some politicians have sought to dismiss this best available science about glyphosate’s safety, and have instead tried to derail the re-registration by calling for further research

One of the signatories on the letter, NFU Scotland’s President Allan Bowie commented: “Glyphosate is a hugely important part of farmers’ toolboxes and is used responsibly by farmers across Scotland and the EU. The best available science says it’s safe. We must be led by that and not the campaigning rhetoric of a few anti-science voices who care little about food production and price.NFU Scotland trusts that the European Commission, MEPs and many member states will see through the rhetoric from the anti-science lobby, and re-register glyphosate at the earliest possible opportunity

“Failure to re-register glyphosate would be a huge blow for science-led decision making in the European Union, and would not stop the importation of non-EU products grown with the use of glyphosate. At a UK level, industry experts have estimated the impacts on crop production would be some €633m per year. At a farm level, the loss of glyphosate would be a huge blow, greatly increasing the time and cost associated with managing weeds and producing high quality and affordable crops. It would also significantly undermine the lower greenhouse gas farming systems of no-till and min-till.”

The NFU will, along with the other UK farming unions, be writing a letter to the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety as well as all UK Members of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Environment Committees in the next few days outlining the importance of the world’s most widely used herbicide glyphosate and to grant its urgent re-authorisation.

The European Parliament will vote later this month on whether the European Commission’s proposed re-authorisation of glyphosate should be removed pending further analysis of the environmental and human health impacts of the herbicide.

The NFU is urging MEPs to oppose the resolution citing the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA1 ) conclusion that ‘glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.’

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Glyphosate has long been used on farm as a broad-spectrum herbicide to control pernicious weeds before planting. This practice allows the farmer to avoid more expensive cultivation techniques such as ploughing. This is proven to be good for climate change mitigation by reducing fossil fuel usage in tractors and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, these minimum tillage establishment practices have additional environmental benefits and have been shown to have positive effects on biodiversity and decrease soil erosion.

“ADAS put the estimated value of the use of glyphosate in the UK arable sector at an estimated €633million a year. It said the loss of glyphosate would likely see a decline of production of winter wheat and winter barley by 12 per cent and oilseed rape by 10 per cent. Loss of availability in the livestock and dairy sectors would result in an inability to tackle invasive and poisonous species such as ragwort in grassland.
“The NFU has grasped the opportunity to discuss the impact on agriculture with MEPs and Member States’ national governments through the NFU’s established Brussels office. We look forward to making the case for glyphosate directly to Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis from DG Sante in a letter to him and several MEPs in the next few days.

“We’re keen that farmers make the case for glyphosate use on their farm to their local MEP. From an MEP’s point of view a letter from a constituent can influence their opinion, and potentially their vote, which is why we’re urging farmers to do this. My tips on this are:

> make it personal to your farm business;

> Talk about the stewardship measures you take;

> And think about the impact losing access to glyphosate would have on your business and the environment.”

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