EU: safety assessments of glyphosate postponed

On May 10, 2022, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced their updated timelines for assessments of glyphosate. Accordingly, due to the unprecedented amount of feedback received from stakeholder consultations, EFSA and ECHA can only publish their final safety assessments of glyphosate in July 2023.  

The five-year approval granted in 2017, which allows the use of glyphosate in plant protection products in the EU, is valid until 15 December 2022. The assessments by EFSA and ECHA were originally set to come in time to serve as the scientific ground for the decision of whether to renew the approval or not.  

The agencies explained the reason for this delay as they received an unprecedented number of comments from stakeholders on the initial scientific evaluations of glyphosate, prepared by the Assessment Group on Glyphosate, composed of four EU Member States – France, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Sweden. EFSA and ECHA launched two parallel public consultations, which resulted in approximately 3 000 comments received, making up a file of approximately 3 000 pages. These comments would need extra time to be scrutinized by the Glyphosate Renewal Group and later by the Assessment Group on Glyphosate. The updated renewal assessment report is expected to be completed by the Assessment Group by September and then be peer-reviewed by EFSA and EU Member States in November and December this year.  

Glyphosate is a chemical that is widely used in plant protection products, mainly in agriculture and horticulture to combat weeds that compete with cultivated crops.  

The safety of glyphosate has been a topic of controversy for years. EU agencies had previously concluded that there was no evidence of the link between glyphosate use and heightened cancer risk in humans. However, many civil societies have criticized the assessment process for being biased and neglecting independent studies that pointed out long-term effects on human health and the environment.