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European Union officials allow Monsanto's Roundup to be sold for 18 more months

Photo of a farm.
File Photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Updated Wednesday, June 29 with statement from Monsanto — Farmers throughout the European Union will continue to use Monsanto's weed killer Roundup, at least for a while.

The European Commission has decided to extend a license that allows glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, to be sold in the European Union for 18 months.

The decision follows a meeting last week in which EU member states failed to vote on the extension, as they have before. France and Malta voted against it, while several countries chose to abstain. Because the license expires at the end of June, the decision fell to the European Commission.

If officials had let the license expire, they would have given Monsanto and other companies that sell herbicides made with glyphosate six months to phase out their products in the European Union. 

Originally, European officials planned on renewing the license for another 15 years. However, the chemical's use has been controversial and many doubts have been raised about its safety. 

In spring 2015, a panel of scientists from the World Health Organization released a report that said glyphosate is a "probable" carcinogen.

Last month, global experts updated that research and showed that humans are unlikely to get cancer from consuming crops that have been sprayed with herbicides containing glyphosate. They did not look at how likely farmers and gardeners who handle the products would develop cancer.

In May, Nebraska farmers sued Monsanto, alleging that Roundup was responsible for their cancers.

Philip Miller, Monsanto's president of global regulatory and governmental affairs said, in a statement, that the decision made by the European Commission will allow farmers continued access to glyphosate until a long-term solution is found.   

"European farmers, municipalities, gardeners and other users have depended on glyphosate for 40 years as a safe, efficient and cost-effective tool for weed control," he said. "Glyphosate meets or exceeds all requirements for renewal under European law and regulation. The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence and the EU’s own regulatory agencies have declared glyphosate safe for use." 

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.