By Ben Conner, USW Director of Policy
Many European farmers breathed a sigh of relief this week as the European Commission chose to extend registration of the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate for five years. But farmers in Europe and elsewhere around the world are justifiably worried about the challenges represented by the European Union’s pesticide policy.
The extension of glyphosate approval is good news — even a bit surprising. The European Food Safety Authority has been emphatic in its position that glyphosate presents no human safety hazard when used in compliance with regulations. Yet the Commission only extended the registration for five years based only on a political compromise rather than sound scientific evidence or and accepted risk assessment standards. The activists trying to derail the glyphosate approval process are ignoring the integrity of that agency’s risk assessment process, which undermine the principles of scientific approaches to regulation.
The fight over glyphosate re-registration is symptomatic of broader concerns about pesticide policies in the European Union. Its so-called “hazard-based” approach to registration of certain pesticides and innovative plant breeding ignores scientific risk assessments that lead to standards for proper use of pesticides. This creates a greater risk of major trade disruptions, potentially including wheat and certainly including other food ingredients.
It should be noted that there are many well-meaning individuals who are sincerely concerned about the safety of their food supply and environment. As the father of two small children, I can certainly understand that. But to my mind, being able to put food on the table and ensure our planet can support future generations clearly outweighs immeasurably small odds of harm. My children deserve to live in a world that is willing to thoughtfully evaluate the risks and rewards of progress, based not on fear, but rather on accepted scientific evidence and standards.