6 November 2019


#STOPGLYPHOSATE: Is there Safety in Numbers?

“When a man with 45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol is a dead man. Let’s see if that is true”. This quotation from the Western-Masterpiece “A Fistful of Dollars” is quite appropriate for explaining the Monsanto vs. StopGlyphosate debate. But who’s the man with the rifle?

by Adriano Cerquetti

The StopGlyphosate coalition was formed the 8 February 2017 from Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN), and WeMove; the Coalition launched a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to ban glyphosate: in October, more than one million people from 22 Member States subscribed the petition. In the past, such coalitions representing citizen’s fears, have won important debates, as for example the anti-TTIP movement. This time, however, is going to be harder.

On Tuesday 24 October 2017, the European Parliament has adopted a non-binding resolution asking the European Commission to immediately ban from using products with glyphosate. Surprisingly, Berlaymont Building has decided not to decide, causing immediate protests in Bruxelles. The European Commission indeed failed to vote on an extension of the license and therefore postponed the decision. On November 9th the Experts Committee has once again failed to reach an agreement: nine states, led by Italy and France, have voted against the five-year renewal suggested by the EC.

The debate is intense: very few topics had divided the scientific community and EU member states as the pesticide produced by Monsanto. European Agencies (ECHA, EFSA) have expressed their opinion, concluding that there was no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer in humans. On the other hand, the World Health Organization and the IARC has concluded that glyphosate is “probable human carcinogen”.

As said, member States have different opinions as well. Sixteen member states led by Romania, Ireland, UK, Poland and Spain have backed a 10-year re-authorization of the substance and they refused to limit it to five. While Germany, along with Portugal, abstained on the vote.

National association of farmers have mixed views as well. Lately, EU farmers’ union Copa-Cogeca has rejected the Commission’s revised proposal of a five-year authorization. Instead, they suggest a full 15-year re-approval. In Italy, for example, there are different points of view. Legambiente fights harshly against the use of Monsanto pesticide; Coldiretti instead keeps a neutral position, asking for better controls on importation.

Surely, Monsanto did not help itself, as on October 11th its lobbyists were banned from European Parliament after the refusal of the firm to participate to the auditions at the Parliament on “Monsanto Papers and Glyphosate”. In a letter sent by Vice-President Philip Miller, it appears their concern for the “politicization of EU procedures on the renewal of the glyphosate authorization”, which, according to him, “has been monopolized by populism”.

How will this battle end up? Hard to say. If the Member States won’t find a qualified majority (16 states) in order to express their position on the glyphosate ban, the European Commission will take a decision on its own by mid-December.

However it will end up, the big multinationals as Monsanto, will have to face in future with the citizen interests. They can’t hide no more from the public opinion, from the protests and from the petitions. They can’t avoid the people to have a right of opinion and free expression of their own interest. Just as a lobbying society.

 “When a man with 45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol is a dead man”. Let’s wait and see who’s the man with the rifle.

 * Adriano Cerquetti has graduated in International Relations at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, and just finished a post-graduate master course in Communications and Public Affairs at Sole24Ore Business School. (Mail: adriano.cerquetti@gmail.com / Twitter: @adricerque/ LinkedIn)

 The information and views set out in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Good Lobby.