Products containing controversial weed killer glyphosate will be banned from public spaces as Malta continues to oppose its use.
The herbicide, considered a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, will not be allowed to be used at roundabouts, central strips, near schools or hospitals and a list of other public areas.
A legal notice amending the sustainable use of pesticides regulations will be published in the coming days.
The move is an initiative of Environment Minister José Herrera, who has long made his position against the chemical public.
The safety of glyphosate in normal environmental conditions has been hotly disputed over the last few years.
A report by the European Food and Safety Agency in 2015 concluded it was “unlikely” to cause cancer. However, a study published last year was the first to show a causal link between glyphosate consumption at a real-world environmental dose and a serious condition, with findings showing that the popular glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup caused liver disease in rats.
Between 2016 and 2017, Malta went from supporting the continued use of the controversial chemical to forming part of a group of 10 EU countries seeking a ban across the union.
Will not be allowed to be used at roundabouts, central strips
Despite opposition from some member states and MEPs, the product’s licence was eventually extended across the EU.
The government announced two years ago it was in the process of implementing a total ban on glyphosate. However, shortly afterwards it made a U-turn and said it could not implement a unilateral ban due to European single market rules.
The government’s insistence that Malta cannot ban glyphosate was contradicted by prominent environmentalists, who stress it is member states – and not the EU – that authorise pesticides to be placed on the market.
In Malta, glyphosate is used in agriculture and in limited quantities by the Environmental Landscaping Consortium (ELC) which sows and maintains plants in public spaces.
Figures published by the National Statistics Office show that the chemical is popular with farmers in the growing and cultivation of potatoes, vines, fodder, vegetables and orchard fruit.
NGO welcomes decision
Friends of the Earth Malta welcomed the government's decision to ban the weed killer from public areas.
“This is a positive step since tests carried out by Friends of the Earth Malta in 2013 showed that traces of the weed killer glyphosate were found in 9 out of 10 people tested,” Martin Galea De Giovanni, director of the NGO, said.
"This announcement shows responsibility from government’s side as it chose to listen to the concerns of experts and individuals who have demanded that our fields, streets and gardens would be free from this risky weed killer.
"Friends of the Earth Malta now hopes that government will take the next step and implement a total ban of glyphosate in Malta since national states have the right to decide on which pesticides can be removed from the market nationally."