Glyphosate Authorization Proceeds in the EU

Despite the European Commission's proposal to extend the glyphosate authorization for another 10 years not receiving a qualified majority in the Appeals Committee, the extension is proceeding. But there will be new requirements.

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Herbicide strips with dead vegetation (left) indicate: Glyphosate was sprayed here (Photo: worksshl/
Herbicide strips with dead vegetation (left) indicate: Glyphosate was sprayed here (Photo: worksshl/

The European Commission announces its decision to authorize the weed killer glyphosate for another 10 years, accompanied by new conditions and restrictions. These include a ban on its use immediately before harvest and "measures to protect non-target organisms," such as buffer zones.

This decision follows a vote in the Appeals Committee where the required majority from the member states was not achieved - since there were also not enough votes against it to overturn the decision, the Commission had the final say and opted for the extension.

Glyphosate is currently authorized for use in the EU until December 15, 2023. The issue has recently stirred significant debate among farmers and environmentalists. In a first vote in the relevant committee on October 13, 2023, the proposal failed to achieve the necessary qualified majority (55% of member states representing simultaneously 65% of the EU population). This outcome was repeated in the second vote on November 16 in the Appeals Committee. The member states that voted against the proposal or abstained represented almost 60% of the EU population, as reported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Probably no health risk

Glyphosate is a component of Bayer-Monsanto's well-known broad-spectrum herbicide 'Roundup'. It acts systemically, being absorbed through the green parts of the plant and subsequently killing it. Therefore, careful removal of shoots in the lower part of the plant is necessary before application to protect the vine itself. The herbicide is not absorbed through the roots, which makes it useful in agriculture as a pre-sowing herbicide.

Numerous studies have examined the impact of glyphosate use on humans, with findings ranging from "probably carcinogenic" to "not carcinogenic." The prevailing view in current scientific knowledge is that glyphosate, when used as intended, does not pose a health risk to humans.


Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant, suffered a setback in the US when the Supreme Court allowed cases to proceed against its subsidiary Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller whose allegedly carcinogenic ingredient, glyphosate, is widely used by the wine industry.

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Unclear effects on biodiversity

Another area of controversy is glyphosate's impact on biodiversity, with studies yielding diverse and conflicting results. In the summer of 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a glyphosate assessment and, in its risk evaluation, did not find any "critical problem areas" concerning the risks it poses to humans, animals, or the environment. However, for 12 out of 23 proposed glyphosate uses, a high long-term risk to mammals was identified in the field of ecotoxicology. The risks to biodiversity remain an open question due to the absence of "harmonized methods and agreed specific protection targets." Overall, the available data did not allow for clear conclusions regarding this aspect of the risk assessment.

Potential for national ban despite EU authorization

In the sectors of agriculture and viticulture, there is widespread support for extending the authorization. Particularly in industrial agriculture and steep-slope viticulture, where weed control is not easily mechanized, many producers fear for their production without glyphosate.

Germany abstained from the vote due to the lack of a unified position in the federal cabinet. The coalition agreement of the federal government actually included a provision for banning glyphosate. Since national law can strengthen but not weaken EU law, a ban remains a possibility even if the EU-level authorization is extended. VM



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