Bayer Crop Science says the German government’s decision to withdraw glyphosate from the multinational’s domestic market after 2023 ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the herbicide. It also erodes confidence in science-based regulation.

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On Wednesday, the German cabinet approved a proposal from its Environment Ministry to phase out herbicides containing glyphosate by the end of 2023. Agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner is reported as saying that Germany aims for a 75% reduction in the use of glyphosate by 2023.

In addition, the member state will oppose any EU proposal for the re-authorisation of the active ingredient. It is understood that these policy statement are not legally binding – the EU, not member states, regulates pesticide approvals. Ms Kloeckner agrees that glyphosate remains legal under EU law but states that government farm policies will become greener.

Angela Merkel’s Social Democrat party is in government through the support of the Green Party as junior coalition partner. The Greens are using their presence to pursue an environmental agenda.

The German development follows Austria’s passing of legislation in July to prohibit the use of glyphosate, plus similar unilateral moves by a number of mayoralties in France against the national position.

Bayer, based at Leverkusen in Germany, acquired the glyphosate portfolio through its purchase of Monsanto two years ago.

A statement from Bayer Crop Science says the company respects political decisions by some EU member states to reduce applications of glyphosate. “However, with regards to the German government’s intention to impose a unilateral ban on glyphosate in 2023, we have a different view.

“Such a ban would ignore the overwhelming scientific assessments of competent authorities around the world that have determined for more than 40 years that glyphosate can be used safely. Within the EU, we have a common legal framework for the authorisation of plant protection active ingredients, backed by one of the world’s most stringent safety assessment schemes.”

Bayer notes that glyphosate comes up for EU renewal in 2022 – after a shorter than usual five-year period following political pressure – and that France, the Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden have already been appointed to reassess the active’s safety.

“Pre-empting the result of such a thorough scientific assessment by these EU member states and the European Food Safety Authority will erode confidence in a science and rule-based authorisation procedure and thus have a significant negative impact on agriculture and other sectors far beyond this individual substance,” warns Bayer.

It goes on to emphasise the role of glyphosate in sustainable and productive agricultural systems, including the “adoption of conservation agriculture practices which play a major role in minimising greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the negative impact of climate change”.