Viewpoint: EU’s glyphosate reauthorization should depend on science, not precaution


[Editor’s note: Pieter Cleppe is the head of the Brussels office of Open Europe, a non-partisan and independent policy think tank]

The last time the issue [of glyphosate reauthorization] was tabled by the European Commission – in the summer of 2016 – France and Germany abstained and forced the EC to merely extend the licence until the end of 2017. There has been a war of words between policymakers, scientists, and environmental activists raging ever since.

[For] IARC, Nicolas Hulot, and others, the mere fact that there is some risk, irrespective of exposure, is reason enough to outright ban the substance. For them, the reigning factor is the so-called precautionary principle.


The principle states that if there is no scientific consensus on a substance’s effects on the human body, that chemical should be banned on suspicion alone. Acting on this impulse, campaigners have managed to obtain 1.3 million signatures against glyphosate.

The precautionary principle has some very obvious flaws. We can never be entirely sure of a chemical’s effects on the human body; had this principle been applied in the 1950s, we may well never have known the benefits of aspirin.

It would simply never have been authorised today, according to Peter McNaughton, Sheild professor of pharmacology at the University of Cambridge. As so often happens, the loudest voices taking part in the glyphosate debate have almost no scientific background whatsoever.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Bringing sanity back to Europe’s glyphosate debate

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