January 18, 2018 / 2:59 PM / 2 years ago

German farm minister sees no timetable for end to glyphosate use

Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, arrives for exploratory talks about forming a new coalition government at the SPD headquarters in Berlin, Germany, January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said on Thursday he could see no set date for an end to use of the controversial weed-killer glyphosate in Germany.

Schmidt caused international controversy and a major row in Germany’s government coalition in November by unexpectedly backing an European Union Commission proposal to permit use of glyphosate for the next five years despite a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

Schmidt’s vote effectively allowed the extension in glyphosate use in the face of opposition from France and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in Germany’s government coalition.

A provisional blueprint for talks for a new government coalition in Germany agreed in January calls for systematically and significantly limiting glyphosate use with the aim of entirely ending use as quickly as possible.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, a member of SPD, has called for an end to glyphosate use in the current four-year parliament.

But Schmidt said at the Green Week trade fair on Thursday he could set no exact date for an end to glyphosate use in Germany.

He said alternatives to glyphosate must be found first, which he said could involve new forms of weed-killers or new methods of farming.

The association of German farmers on Thursday called for glyphosate use to continue. The farming association president Joachim Rukwied said glyphosate opponents were undertaking “a campaign of fear.”

Rukwied said opponents of glyphosate had failed to show scientific cause for concern. A ban would cause a massive competitive disadvantage to German farmers, who would face the extra costs of additional ploughing to control weeds, he said.

Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann; Writing by Michael Hogan; Editing by Edmund Blair

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