The European Commission is to renew the approval of glyphosate for another 10 years.

Member states did not reach the required qualified majority to renew or reject the approval of glyphosate during a vote at the Appeal Committee this week. In October, a similar thing happened in a previous vote at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food, and Feed (SCOPAFF).

The EU Commission must decide before Dec. 15, 2023, when the current approval period expires. The Commission said the substance would be approved subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

Denmark, Spain, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Sweden, and Portugal were among the countries that voted for renewal, while Austria, Croatia, and Luxembourg were against. Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy abstained from the vote.

Mixed reaction
Glyphosate is a chemical used in herbicide products. Glyphosate-based pesticides are used in agriculture and horticulture to combat weeds that compete with cultivated crops.

Member states are responsible for national authorization of plant protection products (PPPs) containing glyphosate and can restrict their use at national and regional levels if they consider this necessary based on the outcome of risk assessments.

Copa and Cogeca called on the EU Commission to follow the science-based conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and opt for reauthorization.

“Currently, there is not any equivalent alternative to this herbicide, and without it, many agricultural practices, notably soil conservation, would be rendered complex, leaving farmers with either no solutions or with alternatives that consume even more herbicides,” said the group, which represents farmers and agri-cooperatives in Europe.

However, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) urged the EU Commission to withdraw its proposal for a renewal.

“This new failure to garner a member state’s majority in favor of a 10-year renewal of glyphosate shows that it has become politically impossible to ignore the state of the science. It is unacceptable that the Commission still plans to proceed with its proposal considering the amount of scientific evidence of the substance’s health impacts and the related suffering,” said Natacha Cingotti, HEAL’s health and chemicals program lead.

HEAL was one of over 100 organizations that wrote to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, requesting her to intervene and ensure the substance is not renewed.

EFSA works on chemicals and flavorings
Meanwhile, EFSA has revealed efforts to reduce the reliance on animal testing for safety assessments of chemicals in food.

An online platform has been created to help scientists and regulators model and predict toxicokinetics, which is how the body manages chemicals, and toxicity or toxicodynamics, which is what chemicals do to the body. 

Two scientists at EFSA – toxicologist Jean-Lou Dorne and statistician and modeler Jose Cortiñas Abrahantes – are leading the work on TKPlate.

“You select the species, the chemical or group of chemicals, input parameters such as the type of exposure; then you run the models with a click. It calculates the concentrations of chemicals inside the body from the intake and predicts the effects they can cause. As with all scientific information, the predictions provided by these models have variability and uncertainty, depending on the data available for the species and the chemical you’re testing,” said Dorne.

Carlos Gonçalo das Neves, EFSA’s chief scientist, supports New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) such as TKPlate.

“Some software-based NAMs are already in use at EFSA and playing a growing role in some of our risk assessments. TKPlate is not being used in EFSA’s assessments yet, but applications of its models are being explored to optimize the platform and to prioritize training for our staff and experts across Europe,” he said.

EFSA has also assessed the safety of eight smoke flavorings on the EU market, the authorization of which was due for renewal. Smoke flavorings are added to foods like meat, fish, or cheese as an alternative to the traditional smoking process.

Genotoxicity is a chemical’s ability to damage cells’ genetic material. Six of the smoke flavorings contain genotoxic substances, so it raises safety concerns. There is a lack of data for the other two. There may be an elevated risk of harmful effects when consuming genotoxic substances. However, this depends on various factors, including an individual’s genetics and diet.

The EU Commission and member states will now decide what happens to the smoke flavorings on the market.

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