The EU has voted to allow the use of the controversial weed-killer glyphosate for another five years, as Malta and eight other countries were defeated in their attempt to block the extension.

Yesterday’s decision by the appeal committee of EU governments came after months of indecisive votes amid fears that the chemical causes cancer.

Malta has consistently opposed efforts to renew the glyphosate licence, which was set to expire in December.

Ahead of the vote, an environment ministry spokesman said the government would push for a phase-out in the shortest possible timeframe.

Yesterday, Malta was among nine Member States – including France, Italy and Belgium – to vote against the European Commission’s five-year proposal.

However, 18 countries voted in favour, with one abstaining, securing the narrowest of possible margins under rules requiring more than a simple majority.

Monsanto insists substance is safe and meets
the standards required

The key swing vote came from Germany, which had abstained on several previous votes before voting in favour yesterday.

Poland, Bulgaria and Romania did likewise, leaving only Portugal still on the fence.

The Commission’s five-year proposal came after earlier attempts to extend the licence for 10 to 15 years all failed to win the backing of the required qualified majority of Member States.

Glyphosate, a key ingredient in the Monsanto product Roundup, is considered a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization cancer agency, although other studies by the EU food safety and chemical agencies have contradicted this conclusion.

Last month, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution rejecting the Commission proposal and calling for glypho-sate to be phased out altogether by 2022, as well as an immediate ban on non-professional uses and uses in public parks, gardens and playgrounds.

Environmental activists have long called for a total ban, while Monsanto insists the substance is safe and meets the standards required for its licence to be renewed.

Environmental toxicologist Angeliki Lysimachou from the lobby group PAN Europe said yesterday the five-year extension did not address the concerns of Europeans and provided no guarantee that the public and the environment would be protected from the chemical’s harmful effects.

“This decision reveals once again the sad truth that governments are more keen to protect the highly profitable pesticide industry than the health of their people and the environment,” Mr Lysimachou said.

(Includes reporting by Reuters)

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