Current Status of Glyphosate in the EU
Commercialised in 1974, the use of glyphosate has grown to dominate the herbicide market. Glyphosate is the only herbicide to target the enzyme 5-enolpyruvyl-3-shikimate phosphate synthase (EPSPS). Its in-planta mobility and slow action in killing weeds, allowing it to kill all meristems, makes glyphosate effective for perennial weed control.
Glyphosate is currently approved for use in the EU until the 15th of December 2023, following a one-year extension in December 2022 [when its previous approval for five years granted by the European Commission (EC) in 2017 was due to expire].
In 2019, a group of companies known as the Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG) formally applied to renew the approval of glyphosate for use. The European Commission appointed France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden, known as the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG), as joint “rapporteurs” to perform the initial renewal assessment.
On the 26th of July 2023 EFSA published the conclusions on the peer review of glyphosate in the EFSA journal. The main conclusions were:
- The assessment of the impact of glyphosate on the health of humans, animals and the environment did not identify critical areas of concern.
- In 2022, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) carried out a hazard assessment of glyphosate and concluded that it did not meet the scientific criteria to be classified as a carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substance. EFSA used ECHA’s hazard classification for the purposes of the EU risk assessment on glyphosate.
- With respect to ecotoxicology, the data package allowed a conservative risk assessment approach, which identified a high long-term risk to mammals in 12 out of 23 proposed uses of glyphosate.
Issues that could not be finalised include the assessment of one of the impurities in glyphosate, the consumer dietary risk assessment, and the assessment of risks to aquatic plants. Outstanding issues include, among others, a lack of information about the toxicity of one of the components present in the glyphosate-based pesticide formulation submitted for evaluation, which is needed to conclude the risk assessment of the formulation for representative uses. For this formulation there were no indications of acute toxicity and genotoxicity.
The European Commission submitted to the Member States a draft Renewal Report on 13 July 2023. Discussions will continue in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee) in September 2023, prior to a vote by the Member States on a draft Regulation.
In Great Britain the approval of glyphosate currently expires on the 15th of December 2025.