French and German farmers urge renewal of EU glyphosate license

PARIS (Reuters) - French and German farmers jointly called on European governments to renew the license for glyphosate weedkiller, saying there was no evidence it was toxic and banning it would severely harm farming.

The European Union is due to decide by the end of the year whether to extend the licensing of one of the world’s most widely-used weedkillers. Glyphosate was initially created by U.S. agricultural company Monsanto which sells it under the brand name Roundup. A vote is planned early next month.

Consumers are concerned about potential health risks after the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” in 2015.

“We need to be able to continue to use some crop protection products, not because of some kind of stupid addiction like some say, but because the alternative means are not there,” French oilseed growers group FOP Arnaud Rousseau said on Thursday.

France’s environment ministry said in August Paris would vote against renewing the license. A qualified majority of member states is needed for the renewal to go ahead.

Berlin’s stance will depend on the outcome of the Federal elections due to take place on Sept. 24. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term, has backed glyphosate but has not found enough support in her coalition government.

“We strongly hope that with the new government there will be a new approval of glyphosate,” said Wolfgang Vogel, head of German oilseeds industry association UFOP. “It would be very hard for farmers if they had to renounce glyphosate.”

France and Germany, the two largest EU members and top grain producers, had both abstained in earlier votes.

The question of glyphosate in France was now “purely political” Vogel said, as public studies both at French and EU level have said that glyphosate should not be classified as a cancer-causing substance, he said.

Grain growers issued a separate statement saying France’s position was “purely unacceptable” at a time when farmers are suffering from a sharp drop in income due to poor grain prices.

French pollster Ipsos, estimated earlier this month that a ban on the weedkiller would cost the French grains sector 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and 900 million for wine makers.

Analysts have estimated that Monsanto could lose out on up to $100 million of sales if glyphosate was banned in Europe.

Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle