British MEP Anthea McIntyre mounted a robust defence of the threatened weedkiller glyphosate when a petition against it was debated in the European Parliament.
Miss Mcintyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands and a member of the parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said calls for a ban on the herbicide were based on false science and threatened the environment and bio-diversity.
She spoke on Monday when a European Citizens’ Initiative petition (ECI) calling for an EU-wide ban was discussed with the petitioners and the European Commission.
The petition – “Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides” – calls for a ban on the herbicide, a reform of the pesticide approval procedure and EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use.
It has collected over 1 million signatures and ECI representative Mika Leandro argued for a ban because an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) study from 2015 concluded glyphosate was a “probable human carcinogen”.
But Miss McIntyre had a forthright message for the debate, describing theletters she gets from farmer constituents.
She said: “One very typical one says: ‘As someone with a scientific training I am appalled how scientific results are being corrupted for political ends with blatant and invalid selection of data to try and establish false arguments for biased organisations. It’s time to take a lead and tell the public and decision makers alike that glyphosate has been safe for forty years and remains safe.’
“Hundreds of independent, peer-reviewed studies have proved this to be the case. Earlier this month, yet another independent and long-term study from the National Cancer Institute found no association between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“Many farmers are making a big effort to build up the levels of organic matter in soils by using ground cover crops and “no-till” farming methods. This gives us carbon sequestration, protection from soil erosion and avoidance of water evaporation.
“But without glyphosate, farmers will return to mechanical weed control. That would mean 25% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, a significant impact on farm bird life – skylarks, partridge, lapwing.
“So I really wish that the people that are advocating a complete ban would look much more sensibly at what we really want to achieve which is better soil conservation, better farming methods.”
Glyphosate, popular under the brand name Roundup, is facing a de facto ban from next month if an impasse in the Commission’s advisory committee is not solved to allow its current licence to be renewed.