European Union — You can call it a political move, or one of the most clinically solid ways to prove there is far too much of Monsanto’s RoundUp in the world, but this week 150 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will have their urine tested for traces of glyphosate in an effort to decommission one of the most widely-used herbicides in history.
While the agricultural commission in the U.S. does a square dance around regulations which might remove a carcinogenic weed killer from store shelves, MEPs are taking a more direct approach to prove glyphosate’s 15-year lease should not be renewed once it ends this June.
Members of parliament have already postponed a vote that would allow glyphosate to continue to be sold in the E.U., with France, Sweden, Italy, and the Netherlands leading a very public rebellion over the relicensing. The vote won’t be held now until at least May, and the expected results of the urine test will likely be the last proof the MEPs need to halt the sale of Monsanto’s flagship product, RoundUp, for good.
In a YouGov poll, two-thirds of Europeans have already denounced glyphosate. A ban on the herbicidal ingredient was backed by three-quarters of Italians, 70 percent of Germans, 60 percent of French, and 56 percent of Britons, in a survey of more than 7,000 people across the E.U.’s five largest states.
David Zaruk, a Brussels-based environmental health risk research analyst who runs the blog, The Risk-Monger, questioned in a post if the MEPs are testing their urine as a clever political stunt and asked if tax dollars were paying for the urine tests.
MEP Bart Staes offered a dignified response, adding that the glyphosate testing would be paid for by the MEPs themselves:
“As a MEP I am for the last 17 years very active to fight for another kind of agriculture. For me and the Greens, glyphosate is the very incarnation of “modern agriculture,” a model that is not sustainable at all:
- It stands for reckless monoculture: a non-selective herbicide—a broad band killer which kills all plants, algae, bacteria and fungi—is used to deal with a few pests, thereby creating massive effects on non-target organisms and biodiversity,
- It is strongly linked to GMOs (56% of global use is for glyphosate resistant crops)—killing everything but the genetically engineered crop,
- It stands for economic gains at all costs:
- it has replaced traditional agricultural practices such as tilling because spraying glyphosate is cheaper (“chemical plough”)
- it is used not only to kill unwanted weed, but also the crop itself prior to harvest to accelerate ripening and facilitate harvest (“desiccation”).
So what I do is far from a political gimmick.”
A 2013 Friends of the Earth Europe study found that people in 18 European countries have traces of glyphosate in their urine. In the United States, results from testing are similar, with traces of the herbicide found in fetal tissue, blood, breast milk, and urine.