Statement on sales of products containing glyphosate1st April 2019
We are aware of a high-profile case in America recently which has resulted in a successful compensation claim to be paid out to an individual. Their claim is that glyphosate, a chemical found in some of the weed killers that are sold widely in the UK in many retailers, including our own, has caused them to obtain an illness relating to cancer. Whilst it was a stronger agrichemical formulation that the person was using regularly for years and not the domestic UK formulation, we are continuing to monitor this and will review the situation in due course.
The below guidelines currently set out the European Union and the UK Governments positions on this, and this is the advice that we will act on until further evidence or advice is issued to us.
Some facts about glyphosate
• Glyphosate is an active substance used in plant protection products to control plants, which means it's a herbicide
• Glyphosate is the most frequently used herbicide both worldwide and, in the EU, and it has been used for several decades
• Glyphosate has been thoroughly assessed by Member States and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in recent years
• Glyphosate-based pesticides are used as herbicides in agriculture, horticulture and in some non-cultivated areas
• They are used primarily to combat weeds that compete with cultivated crops or present problems for other reasons (e.g. on railway tracks)
• They are typically applied before crops are sown to control weeds and therefore facilitate better growth of crops by eliminating competing plants
• This eliminates or minimises the need to use ploughing machines ("zero tillage" farming), thereby reducing soil erosion and carbon emissions
• Glyphosate is also used to a lesser extent as a pre-harvest treatment to facilitate better harvesting by regulating plant growth and ripening
Current status of glyphosate in the EU
Glyphosate has been thoroughly assessed by Member States, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) - to establish whether its use results in any unacceptable effects on human and animal health or the environment.
• 2002: following such an assessment, glyphosate was first approved according to EU rules on pesticides. Before this time it was authorised for use in Member States according to national rules in place at the time.
• Between 2012 and 2015: a comprehensive scientific assessment was carried out by the Member States and EFSA according to the rules for renewal of active substance approvals to confirm that glyphosate complies with the new approval criteria laid down in the 2009 EU pesticides legislation, taking into account the latest scientific and technical knowledge. EFSA published its conclusion – that "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans" - following this assessment in October 2015.
• Early 2016: the Commission proposed to the Member States to renew the approval of glyphosate but there was insufficient support either in favour or against the proposal. Given the diverging opinions between the International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC, an agency of the World Health Organization) and EFSA on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate, it was considered appropriate to ask the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to assess the hazard properties of the substance before taking a decision on its potential renewal at EU level.
• 29 June 2016: the Commission called for a vote on the renewal proposal, but no majority of Member States either supported or opposed the renewal. The Commission then adopted an extension of the approval of glyphosate for a limited period to allow the European Chemicals Agency to conduct its assessment of the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate.
This extension was limited to 6 months after the receipt of the European Chemicals Agency's opinion or 31 December 2017 at the latest.
Member States also voted in favour of amending the conditions of the existing approval of glyphosate in July 2016, adding further restrictions to ensure the highest safety standards for humans and the environment.
The Commission's decision established three conditions for further use of glyphosate in the Member States, as the actual decisions concerning the authorisation of plant protection products containing approved substances for use in their territories are the responsibility of
• Ban a dangerous co-formulant called POE-tallowamine from glyphosate-based products
• Minimise the use in public spaces, such as parks, public playgrounds and gardens
• Scrutinise the pre-harvest use of glyphosate
On 15 March 2017, the Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) of the European Chemicals Agency concluded by consensus that:
• There is no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer in humans, based on the available information
• Glyphosate should not be classified as a substance that causes genetic damage (mutagen) or disrupts reproduction.
The same conclusion was also reached by the following organisations:
• European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), supported by experts from 27 EU Member State competent authorities
• National authorities outside the EU (e.g. Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand)
• Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – World Health Organisation Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR)
The International Agency for Research on Cancer remains, therefore, the only agency with a divergent view.
On 12 December 2017, the Commission renewed the approval of glyphosate for 5 years, following support by a qualified majority of Member States in an Appeal Committee held on 27 November 2017.
Therefore, glyphosate can be used as an active substance in Plant Protection Products (PPPs), until 15 December 2022, subject to each PPP being authorised by national authorities following an evaluation of their safety.
You can find out more by visiting https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/pesticides/glyphosate_en