By Peter Melchett / Soil Association – The Ecologist, 15 April 2016

Chafer Sentry applying glyphosate to stubbles in North Yorkshire on a sunny December day. Photo: Chafer Machinery via Flickr (CC BY).


The European Parliament just voted to re-authorise glyphosate, writes Peter Melchett – but with significant restrictions on its use. So what does the vote mean for the world’s biggest selling herbicide? And how come the UK’s National Farmers’ Union welcomed the decision as an unqualified victory?

The European Parliament voted in favour of re-authorising the use of glyphosate – but crucially, qualified this approval with a number of significant restrictions.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely sold weed-killer – most commonly sold as Monsanto’s Roundup. For decades it has been claimed to be completely safe by the pesticide industry and its supporters.

But there’s a growing body of evidence of the dangers of glyphosate, beginning with the IARC’s warning that it is a probable human carcinogen. The Soil Association believes it should be banned altogether.

From a UK perspective, the most significant aspect of the European Parliament’s advisory vote on glyphosate reauthorisation is the call “for restrictions on use in agricultural fields shortly before harvesting”, saying the currently allowed practice of spraying glyphosate on wheat and other crops before harvest is “unacceptable”.

Since last year, our ‘Not in my Bread‘ campaign has called for a UK ban on the use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest weed-killer and as a desiccant to allow faster harvesting. Spraying a probable carcinogen on food crops to kill them so they can be harvested faster sounds ridiculous, but it’s happening all across the UK on the wheat that makes our bread, flour and other food like biscuits and cereals.

In the last year for which government figures are available, nearly a third of UK cereals, like wheat, barley, oats and rye, were sprayed with glyphosate – a total of just over one million hectares.



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