Farm organisations have broadly welcomed today’s announcement of a new five-year licence for popular weedkiller glyphosate; ending months of deadlock at the corridors of power in Brussels.

Earlier today, the 28 EU member states met at an appeal committee, where 18 states voted in favour of the proposal; nine against; and one abstention.

It is understood that Germany voted to renew the pesticide, having abstained at the previous meeting in recent weeks.

France, once again, opposed the approval.

The motion to re-licence glyphosate comes just ahead of the the expiry date of the current licence – which runs out on December 15.

The commission had originally intended to try to re-license glyphosate for 15 years; however, this proposal was reduced to 10 years last May.

The weedkiller – which is the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup  – has been at the centre of environmental and health concerns. One scientific UN study has claimed that it is “probably carcinogenic”, while others studies have found that it is safe to use.

Speaking to AgriLand, Patrick Kent, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), said Irish farmers “will be relieved” by the outcome.

“There has been a lobby; it has been linked to the food chain and health problems in other parts of the world; and farmers are very cognisant of that.

“We need to have meetings straight away on this. Farmers will welcome the decision; another five years will give them breathing space to become aware of the parameters involved; and for further tests to be carried out.

Consumer perception is everything when you are selling food. Ireland’s image is very good but if there are question marks about the use of a product that cannot be ignored; the way forward is further testing.

“We need to up our game and be cognisant that there is a problem with glyphosate,” he said.

Glyphosate is currently very important for re-seeding, with no alternative available in Ireland. Kent anticipates that an alternative weedkiller will be on the shelves in five years time.

‘Consistently safe’

Following today’s decision to renew the use of glyphosate for five years, IFA president Joe Healy said it was an important outcome for farmers and for science.

While he said it would have been better to have a longer renewal, Healy said the result stands up to those “who wanted to ignore scientific advice”.

“The European Food Safety Agency has endorsed the use of glyphosate and has consistently said it is safe. Today’s vote backs up that position.

Glyphosate is an integral part of modern farming practices in both tillage and grassland production. It is a key arable crop management tool that allows farmers to produce an abundance of safe, affordable, quality food.

“Its judicious use allows us to adopt minimum tillage practices, thus preventing soil erosion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the sector,” he said.

IFA national grain chairman, Liam Dunne, welcomed the decision. He said: “It is vitally important that any decision to approve or not approve plant protection products is based on the best scientific evidence available and not on a political whim.”