By Maxime Perrotin
In October, France will again oppose the re-homologation of glyphosate in Europe. For the time being, in the absence of a clear majority agreement between the 28, its use was extended by default by the European Commission. Despite the heavy suspicion on substance, France seems isolated to its European partners.
Will glyphosate be re-registered in Europe for the next ten years? On Wednesday, August 30, the Ministry of Ecological Transition took a clear stand on the future of this active compound of many weed killers, starting with the famous Roundup, classified as "probable human carcinogen" by the Center International Center for Research on Cancer (Circ) of the World Health Organization (WHO) since March 2015.
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A position much less ambiguous than that held by the former executive. Although the former tenant of the Roquelaure hotel, Ségolène Royale, did not hide his animosity against glyphosate, his counterpart to agriculture Stéphane Le Foll - Minister of Agriculture, Agri-Food and the Forest - had obviously a less defined opinion on the file
Thus, if in June 2015 the minister declared on the Public-Sénat channel that he would not ban glyphosate, exactly a year later France joined Malta, the only opponent of the project to renew the authorization marketing of glyphosate in Europe. Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Luxembourg, Greece and Portugal, merely abstaining.
Nevertheless, forbearance is sufficient to prevent a "qualified majority" (55% of Member States, representing 65% of the European population) from being approved, but instead of rejecting the proposed renewal of the license for glyphosate , the European Commission will decide - by default - to extend it for a maximum period of 18 months.
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The next technical committee vote is expected to take place in early October or November, with Germany not wanting to see the issue of glyphosate in its electoral process - proponents of the glyphosate ban seem particularly isolated. Nevertheless, "the games are not made," said Michèle Rivasi, MEP of Europe Ecology the Greens (EELV) in the European Parliament.
For this MEP, who calls for a refocusing of European policy on the interests of its citizens and not of particular interests, "the truth must come out", considering that its counterparts do not have all the elements, all the necessary information in order to be able to decide fully on the rehabilitation or not of glyphosate.
Michèle Rivasi intends, along with other MEPs, to provide a platform for various actors in American civil society today who are facing legal proceedings against Monsanto. The agrochemical giant, the father of glyphosate, which he made the active ingredient of his flagship product, the Roundup, is being sued in the United States for numerous environmental pollution cases (including PCB, aspartame, orange agent or growth hormones).
Monsanto was accused of deliberately concealing information from the US health authorities about the harmfulness of its products and was also condemned in the United States and France for false advertising regarding the "biodegradable" properties of its weed killer.
"We saw in mails that Monsanto sends to scientists that they pay scientists to say that glyphosate is not carcinogenic," says Michèle Rivasi, who evokes these class-actions and hears to rely on this sulphurous passive - if not explosive - of the American multinational.
However, Monsanto is far from being the only producer and distributor of products including this famous glyphosate since the patent fell in the public domain in the year 2000. Nevertheless, the American giant - which could soon pass under German flag - does not disarm to protect this substance now depicted as the "keystone" of its economic model. This is evidenced by the revelations of the "Monsanto papers" about which journalists of the World declared in June 2017 that the American firm had "undertook to demolish, by all means" the agency of the United Nations against cancer in order to save the glyphosate .
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A product on which the CNRS has long been concerned. Already in 2008, in the documentary of journalist Marie-Monique Robin, "The world according to Monsanto," Professor Robert Bellé explained how Roundup disrupted cell division by making cells genetically unstable.
If, by prudence and professionalism, this CNRS expert is careful not to establish a direct link between the development - particularly long - of cancers and the use of the product, he wishes to emphasize that "for us, the Roundup induces the first steps which lead to cancer ". Robert Bellé who subsequently reviewed the pressure that was then exerted in order to protect the development of GMOs. Nothing should hinder what was then presented as the progress of scientific progress.
In any case, the French decision seems to have aroused stir in the Atlantic. In a statement released on Thursday (August 31st), Anne Kolton - vice president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a lobby group representing the North American chemical industry - "urged" France to "reconsider" her decision and " to take into account the findings of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) investigations, which considered the carcinogenic risk of glyphosate to be "unlikely".
Conclusions that contradict the report of the UN institution, on the basis of which the Commission was justified in relaunching the process of re-homologation of glyphosate in mid-May, but to which access seems particularly restricted as Michèle Rivasi explains. The Green Group also lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice against EFSA in order to have access to the results.
"When I ask them for the studies that they have published and are being reprimanded" but no, glyphosate is not carcinogenic, but you can not give you the studies because the industrialists own it and there are a trade secret "you see that we are not in the sciences, we are in total empiricism!"
The MEP regrets an "organized lie", pointing to the opacity of these studies carried out by the European Union and whose objectivity has been questioned by virtually all groups of Parliament. Many denounce the lack of independence of these agencies in relation to the plant protection industry, especially since the tests carried out are carried out under special conditions, as recalled by our colleagues at Science et Avenir: "The Agency does not take into account the exposure criteria: it evaluates pure (isolated) glyphosate and not commercial products, which contain other substances that further activate the molecule and are suspected of allowing its penetration into the cells ... "
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On the side of the French legislator, to compensate for this impotence on the European scale seems close to the impossible mission. Indeed, because it was impossible to prohibit the use of glyphosate to farmers without an endorsement from Brussels, France turned to its amateur gardeners and municipal employees. We remember the coup de com "realized by Ségolène Royale, then Minister of the Environment, who in June 2015 went to a Jardiland in Bonneuil (Val-de-Marne) to remove displays - in front of the cameras - weed killers containing glyphosate. On January 1 of the following year, the sale of glyphosate was prohibited to individuals - who in France still sold 2,000 tons a year - a decision of the minister that echoed the opinion of the CLCV - National Association of defense of consumers and users, which then demanded a ban on the sale of glyphosate to individuals.
Today, glyphosate is considered to be the most widely used substance in the world - our colleagues in the world reported that for the year 2014 alone, nearly 825,000 tons of glyphosate-containing products were spread on farms around the world . During a urine test carried out on forty-eight MEPs on the initiative of the Greens, traces of glyphosate were detected in all the participants, all in particularly high proportions - up to thirty-five times the threshold tolerated in drinking water. "We see that we all have, glyphosate is both present in our diet, in our environment" insists Michèle Rivasi who emphasizes a question related to an "international stake".
Proponents of glyphosate not only emphasize the significant time and cost savings that the product allows, but also the ecological impact of re-tillage to clean the fields before sowing. Plowing, which some believe would lead to the release of large quantities of carbon previously stored in soils, thereby jeopardizing efforts against global warming. On the CNRS and INRA side, the productivity gain generated by the use of herbicides is considered to be "low". Beyond the polemic on the sole issue of the sustainability of glyphosate in Europe, is not it finally the question of the sustainability of our agricultural mode itself that arises to