EU will only extend glyphosate license with national backing

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will only extend its approval for the herbicide glyphosate if there is sufficient support from the bloc’s 28 member states, European Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said on Monday.

Concerns over glyphosate’s risk to human health have prompted investigations by U.S. congressional committees and delayed a relicensing decision in Europe for Monsanto’s big-selling weed killer Roundup.

The European Commission decided to propose extending approval for glyphosate by 10 years after the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) said in a study in March that it should not be classified as a substance causing cancer.

Andriukaitis told reporters during a meeting of EU agriculture ministers that he had no reason to doubt that glyphosate was safe but it was up to national governments to agree to extend the approval.

“I wanted to make clear that the Commission has no intention to reapprove this substance without the support of a qualified majority of member states. This is and will remain a shared responsibility,” he said.

EU member states have consistently failed to produce a majority firmly in favor or against approving glyphosate.

Large member states France and Germany have abstained from voting, forcing the Commission to extend the license by 18 months at the end of June 2016 to give the ECHA time to study the chemical further.

A committee of experts from EU nations will hold a first discussion of the issue on Wednesday, with a vote expected later in the year.

A qualified majority for a proposal means 16 of 28 member states must vote in favor and the support must come from countries representing at least 65 percent of the EU population.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by David Clarke