The authorisation for the herbicide glyphosate expires on the first of July. And this deadline is now making the industry and its lobby groups rather nervous because it appears unlikely today that an extension will be granted in the face of opposition in the Member States and public protest. Until now Germany has been the loudest voice of dissent, refusing to agree to a renewal and thereby preventing a qualified majority in the Council. Now, with one month to go before the expiry date, the Commission is chancing a new offensive and trying to outflank the opposition.
The strategy of the Commission is to seek a 12 to 18-month “technical extension”. This would buy time for the ECHA (European Chemical Agency) to conduct new tests on the aggressive herbicide which is extremely hazardous to health in order to conclude whether it is actually carcinogenic. This is a tactical move by the Commission to leave the back door open. It is playing for time – in the hope that the authorisation for glyphosate might continue running below the public radar, as it were, when the furore has died down.
While the moves in this poker game play out, the seed production corporation Monsanto, which sells the herbicide under the name “Roundup”, is already planning its next trick. German chemicals giant Bayer has just put in an official bid to buy Monsanto for 62 billion dollars. Monsanto has rejected the first offer as too low but is open to further negotiation. This means that, at the present time, a Bayer takeover still appears very likely – and would result in a megacorporation with a quarter of the global agrochemical market. This would have a huge influence on our agricultural practices and therefore on the way in which our food would be produced in future.
And a fact which is less well known is that Bayer also sells the pesticide glyphosate. So if the glyphosate authorisation is not extended, the two corporations stand to lose billions. And this would also scupper Bayer’s plans to become the world’s biggest pesticide and seed producer. The lobbies of the big corporations will really turn up the pressure on Germany in the next few weeks in a bid to induce it to back down after all in the Council.
Our firm view as Greens is that the authorisation for glyphosate must not be renewed, and we will also be watching Bayer and its plans for expansion to become the biggest agrochemical giant!