Germany Aims to Ban Glyphosate Usage in Weedkillers 

(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel’s government aims to phase out herbicides containing glyphosate by the end of 2023, a move that could generate further headwinds for German drug and chemical giant Bayer AG.

As part of the proposal approved by her cabinet on Wednesday, the government intends to oppose any request for the EU to renew the license to produce the weedkiller, according to a release by the environment ministry. Jurisdiction over licensing lies with Brussels and not with EU member countries.

"I don’t expect that there will be a majority anywhere in the EU for glyphosate after 2022," Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said at a news conference in Berlin.

The move could prove a further setback for Bayer, which faces massive U.S. lawsuits alleging its Roundup herbicide causes cancer.

“We disagree with the German government’s decision to ban glyphosate by the end of 2023," Liam Condon, head of Bayer’s Crop Science Division, said in a statement. "The ruling ignores decades of scientific judgment from independent regulatory agencies around the world that glyphosate is safe when used properly."

The chemical industry association VCI, said the government was getting ahead of itself by banning a product before a decision had been made by the relevant European Union authority. EU law does not allow for unilateral decisions by member states, it said.

“For the companies in our sector, today’s decision means a massive loss of certainty for planning,” Utz Tillmann, managing director of VCI said in a statement. “Business must be able to count on reliable conditions.”

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner stressed that the product continues to be legal under EU law but that farming policies would become "greener" going forward. By 2023 Germany aims to reduce the use of herbicides containing glyphosate by at least 75%.

For years glyphosate has been a hot button topic in Germany, with a raging public debate over its potential impact on biodiversity and health. Last month German state-owned rail carrier Deutsche Bahn said it plans to cut glyphosate usage in half by 2020.

The German government’s policy statement, which is not legally binding, follows nation-wide protests and demands from her junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, for more decisive action on environmental issues. The renewed focus on climate has helped boost the Green Party in opinion polls, to the detriment of the mainstream parties.

Two years ago the weedkiller dispute caused a storm inside Merkel’s cabinet when her agriculture minister unilaterally voted in favor of extending the use of glyphosate.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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