Glyphosate Renewal Group

glyphosate renewal group

Background

The Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG) is a group of companies working together to call for the renewal of EU authorization for the active substance glyphosate, an agricultural herbicide. At the end of 2019, the group changed its name from Glyphosate Task Force 2 to “avoid confusion with previous glyphosate submissions.”1FAQs,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived October 28, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/4pdP6 

According to its website, the GRG’s mission is to “seek the renewal of the EU authorization of the active substance glyphosate in 2022 by joining resources and efforts to prepare a single dossier with all the scientific studies and information on the safety of glyphosate.”2Home,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived August 13, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/nSXRj 

Glyphosate is currently approved for use in the EU until 15 December 2022, after which it must go through a safety evaluation by four EU member states — France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden — which together form the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG).3Glyphosate,” European Commission. Archived October 4, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/zRFSP  

The GRG’s members include Albaugh Europe SARL, Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd., Bayer Agriculture, Ciech Sarzyna S.A., Industrias Afrasa S.A., Nufarm GMBH & Co.KG (part owned by Sumitomo Corporation), Sinon Corporation and Syngenta Crop Protection AG. According to its website, the group invites additional companies to join if they are supportive of the renewal of glyphosate.4Imprint,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived October 30, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ryTUv 

The GRG is the successor organization of the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), a consortium of companies founded in 2015 whose members included many of the current members of the GRG, including Barclay Chemicals (Manufacturing) Ltd., Dow AgroSciences LLC. (now Corteva Agriscience), Industrias Afrasa S.A., Monsanto Europe S.A./N.V. (now Bayer Agriculture), Nufarm GmbH & Co KG (part of Sumitomo Corporation), Ascenza (formerly Sapec Agro S.A.), Syngenta Limited and UPL.5Glyphosate Task Force: NGO Activists Ignore One of the Largest and Most Thorough Evaluations of an Active Substance Conducted to Date, in an Attempt to Politicise a Scientific Process.,” BusinessWire, March 7, 2016. Archived November 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/jbQlR

Stance on Climate Change

The Glyphosate Renewal Group’s website states that “agriculture has a unique position [as a climate change solution] with its capability to remove just as many greenhouse gases as it emits.”6Carbon Emission,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived March 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/faPpr 

On its “Carbon Emission” webpage, the GRG writes that there is a “consensus among scientists that ever-increasing carbon dioxide emission is the primary source for climate change” and that “we all contribute to climate change.” It also notes that agricultural practices including tilling, fertilizers and fuel use release greenhouse gases, but argues that glyphosate “enables farmers to continue their cultivations without the need to till or plough,” allowing soil to retain more water, reducing runoff and the need for irrigation.7Carbon Emission,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived March 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/faPpr 

On its website page on “Environment & Biodiversity,” the GRG states that its members are “committed to protect and enhance biodiversity by providing safe crop protection products,” and that its members promote “the uptake of good agricultural practices such as crop rotation and diversification as well as reduced tillage systems.”8Environment & Biodiversity,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived October 30, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/xZU0g 

On a separate webpage titled, “Why are herbicides essential for modern agriculture?” the GRG writes that herbicides containing glyphosate “enable no-till and reduced tillage farming practices which in turn lead to less soil erosion and a reduction in carbon emissions,” and claims that “in 2014 alone, the carbon emission reduction [of using herbicides] was equivalent to removing nearly 2 million cars from the road.”9Why are herbicides essential for modern agriculture?Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived June 29, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wM0IQ 

The negative impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity have been widely recognized. One landmark study published in the scientific journal Nature in 2015 tested 30 different wheat crop models at varying temperatures. Its findings suggested that “warming is already slowing yield gains at a majority of wheat-growing locations,” and that “global wheat production is estimated to fall by 6 [percent] for each °C of further temperature increase and become more variable over space and time.”10Asseng, S., Ewert, F., Martre, P. et al. “Rising temperatures reduce global wheat production,” Nature Climate Change 5, 143–147, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2470 

Some studies also suggest that high temperatures and elevated CO2 levels could make glyphosate less effective on weeds, with one study finding reduced effectiveness of glyphosate on both horseweed and white goosefoot. This has led researchers to believe that in a warmer climate with more atmospheric CO2, more glyphosate would have to be used to achieve the desired herbicidal effects.11Matzrafi, M., Brunharo, C., Tehranchian, P. et al. “Increased temperatures and elevated CO2 levels reduce the sensitivity of Conyza canadensis and Chenopodium album to glyphosate,” Sci Rep 9, 2228 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-38729-x

As the GTF was pushing for the renewal of glyphosate in 2016, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a nonprofit group that researches and tracks lobbying in the European Union, raised questions about the transparency of the lobbying conducted by the GTF because it was not yet registered to the EU Transparency Register.12Glyphosate Task Force: NGO Activists Ignore One of the Largest and Most Thorough Evaluations of an Active Substance Conducted to Date, in an Attempt to Politicise a Scientific Process.,” BusinessWire, March 7, 2016. Archived November 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/jbQlR 13Unregistered activity,” Corporate Europe Observatory. Archived November 17, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Pesticide Controversy

Glyphosate is a chemical herbicide widely used by farmers to kill weeds in their fields, with the goals of avoiding significant crop and economic losses. 

Intensive farming practices, including the excessive use of agricultural chemicals like glyphosate, have been found to be dangerous for honeybees and other pollinators. These animals are the cornerstone of food systems and plant reproduction around the world, as they pollinate around two-thirds of global crop plants.14Declining bee populations pose threat to global food security and nutrition,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, May 20, 2019. Archived October 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/0uxsX 

Regarding the excessive use of pesticides in agriculture, the campaign group Pesticide Action Network Europe reported that the United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food has stated:

“Pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a global threat to the entire ecological system upon which food production depends. Excessive use and misuse of pesticides result in contamination of surrounding soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying beneficial insect populations that act as natural enemies of pests and reducing the nutritional value of food.”15Pesticides and the loss of biodiversity,” Pesticide Action Network Europe. Archived November 4, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/kNBBC 

The EU’s published guidance about healthy soils also describes how the intensification of pesticide use in agricultural production can negatively impact soil health, leading to erosion, degradation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity.16Healthy soil,” European Commission. Archived September 8, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/vlGCr 

According to Friends of the Earth Europe, use of glyphosate and other herbicides can negatively affect biodiversity in agricultural areas, because these substances kill common weeds that can be important food sources for wild insect, bird and other animal species.17The environmental impacts of glyphosate,” Friends of the Earth Europe, June 2013. Archived June 10, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

Because glyphosate is applied to crops as a spray, its herbicidal impacts can spread beyond the crop fields and weeds it is designed to target and affect surrounding soils, plants, wild animal species and microorganisms.18The environmental impacts of glyphosate,” Friends of the Earth Europe, June 2013. Archived June 10, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.  19Lindsey Konkel. “What’s the world’s most widely used herbicide doing to tiny critters?,” Environmental Health News, March 18, 2019. Archived November 23, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/GTQ7R 

Some studies have also linked glyphosate to changes in the metabolism, growth, behavior and reproduction of certain fishes, mollusks and insects.20Lindsey Konkel. “What’s the world’s most widely used herbicide doing to tiny critters?,” Environmental Health News, March 18, 2019. Archived November 23, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/GTQ7R 

The SAICM, an initiative of the UN Environment Programme, has noted that “use of herbicides to control weeds indirectly affects pollinators by reducing the abundance and diversity of flowering plants providing pollen and nectar.”21Pollinators and Pesticides: Keeping Our Bees Safe,” Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, UN Environment Programme, 2016. Archived January 17, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has noted that intensive farming practices and “excessive use of agricultural chemicals” can contribute to a decline in populations of bee species, threatening global food security.22Declining bee populations pose threat to global food security and nutrition,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the Union Nations, May 20, 2019. Archived November 19, 2021. Archive URL: ​​https://archive.ph/0uxsX 

In 2021, GRG member Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd pled guilty after an investigation found the company had polluted the River Tolka in Dublin, Ireland, by discharging 5,000 times the legal limit of glyphosate into the local groundwater.23Weed killer company to pay €5,000 to charity over pollution in River Tolka,” The Journal Ireland, July 26, 2021. Archived November 6, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/YLtr7 

In April 2021, the GRG organized a “policy dialogue” event with European media network EURACTIV titled “Farming Talks: Experience from the fields,” featuring two speakers from the European agribusiness and farming industry group COPA-COGECA. During the panel, Karina von Detten, Head of Portfolio Solution EuMEA for Nufarm (one of GRG’s six members) said that “glyphosate has an important role in supporting the competitive use of European farming.”24Farming Talks: Experience from the fields,” EURACTIV, April 20, 2021. Archived November 23, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/NPSEj  25Policy Dialogue – Farming talks: Experiences from the field,” video uploaded to YouTube by user EURACTIV, April 20, 2021. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

Von Detten also stated that risk assessments by “many authorities around the globe” have evaluated glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products and “confirmed them being safe to humans and to the environment.” 

In a page on its website, multinational agrichemicals company Bayer, part of the GRG and one of the world’s largest producers of pesticides, has written that glyphosate “has a role in preserving the environment and biodiversity” because farmers can “ensure more productive harvests while using less land” when they utilize glyphosate. The webpage continues: “By decreasing the amount of land needed to grow crops, farmers can preserve the important habitat and forage area that honey bees and other insects, birds, frogs and beneficial organisms need to thrive.”26Glyphosate’s Role in Preserving the Environment and Biodiversity,” Bayer. Archived March 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/0WehM 

European Union Renewal Process

The procedure for glyphosate’s 2022 renewal began in December 2019, after member companies of the Glyphosate Renewal Group launched a formal application. France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden comprise the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG) considering the application. This is the first assessment process involving more than one EU member state.27Application,” The Glyphosate Renewal Group, Archived on 23 November 2021: https://archive.ph/wip/P2DPL  

In June 2021, the AGG submitted its assessments to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), concluding that it did not believe that glyphosate met the requirements for being classed as carcinogenic.28Procedure and outcome of the draft Renewal Assessment Report on glyphosate, June 2021,” Assessment Group on Glyphosate, June 15, 2021. Archived November 4, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The GRG reportedly said that the conclusions were in line with other leading agencies worldwide, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).29Ephantus Mukundi. “Glyphosate Controversy Continues as New Report Concludes Herbicide Is Not Carcinogenic,” Olive Oil Times, August 24, 2021. Archived August 23, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TUbwv 

The EFSA and ECHA assessment of glyphosate was launched in September 2021 and lasted 60 days, ending on November 23, 2021. The EFSA has shared that it will peer review the ECHA’s assessment and is expected to finalize its work in the second half of 2022.30Glyphosate: EFSA and ECHA launch consultations,” European Food Safety Authority, September 23, 2021. Archived November 16, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/gSN6G  31“​​Glyphosate: ECHA and EFSA launch consultations,” European Chemicals Agency, September 23, 2021. Archived November 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TVZNg 

Human Health Impacts

Glyphosate is a key active substance in pesticides (also known as Plant Protection Products (PPPs)), which have been linked to causing cancer by some studies. 

Assessments of glyphosate’s links to cancer by environmental and health bodies are mixed: In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The EPA published a draft human health risk assessment in 2017 stating that glyphosate is “not likely” to be carcinogenic to humans. The European Food Safety Authority simply states that glyphosate is “widely used in plant protection products (PPPs)” to “combat weeds that compete with cultivated crops.”32IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides,” World Health Organization. Archived April 1, 2019 33EPA Releases Draft Risk Assessments for Glyphosate,” Environmental Protection Agency. Archived September 19, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/f1Dlt  “Glyphosate,” European Food Safety Authority. Archived August 19, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/hQqsd 

Manufacturers of PPPs containing glyphosate, including Monsanto and Bayer, have been taken to court over the substance in the United States and Europe. In some of these cases, the firms have been forced to provide compensation to individuals who claim exposure to glyphosate caused their cancers.34Glyphosate,” European Commission. Archived October 4, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/zRFSP  35Patricia Cohen. “Roundup Maker to Pay $10 Billion to Settle Cancer Suits,” The New York Times, June 24, 2020. Archived November 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/dixLp 

Lobbying

According to its entry in the EU’s Transparency Register, the GRG’s main lobbying activities include organizing events for stakeholders, producing briefings and updates related to the renewal of EU approval of glyphosate, and holding meetings with relevant stakeholders and policymakers as part of the regulatory process.36Glyphosate Renewal Group,” European Transparency Register. Archived November 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TWbSi 

According to the EU Transparency Register, the GRG spent €200,000 – €299,999 on lobbying in the EU in 2019, and the same amount in 2020. The organization employs five people said to spend 25 percent of their time on matters that fall under the scope of the register. Among those five, two are employees of an external consultancy.37Glyphosate Renewal Group,” European Transparency Register. Archived November 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TWbSi 38Glyphosate Renewal Group,” European Transparency Register. Archived November 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TWbSi 

Global communications agency Hume Brophy has received between €100,000 and €199,999 in 2020 to work for the GRG, according to EU Transparency Register filings. The GRG states that its address is the same as that of Hume Brophy.39Hume Brophy,” European Transparency Register. Archived November 23, 2021.  Archive URL: https://archive.ph/fjkWT  40Glyphosate Renewal Group,” European Transparency Register. Archived November 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TWbSi 

Affiliations

Three members of the European Crop Care Association (ECCA) belong to the Glyphosate Renewal Group: Industrias Afrasa S.A., Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd and CIECH Sarzyna S.A. ECCA is an association of small- and medium-sized European manufacturers of “plant protection products” including pesticides and herbicides, fungicides, and growth regulators.41Members,” European Crop Care Association. Archived April 10, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Ombhf

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