BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans new conditions for pesticide approval and will seek an end date for the use of glyphosate-based weed killers, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said on Tuesday.
Weed killers using glyphosate, made by Bayer AG’s Monsanto, are the subject of a heated debate in Europe and the United States over whether they cause cancer.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their SPD coalition partners agreed in February to limit glyphosate use, with the goal of ending use of products that contain it, but set no timeframe.
Schulze, who is from the centre-left Social Democrat (SPD)party, said on Tuesday that “we want to push forward the withdrawal (of glyphosate), including an end date.”
“If other perhaps even more damaging pesticides are used instead of glyphosate, the environment won’t be any better off,” Schulze said, adding that the environment ministry will demand new nature conservation requirements for the approval process.
A glyphosate ban would result in more ploughing, and put German farmers at a competitive disadvantage, said Helmut Schramm, head of Bayer CropScience in Germany.
“Unfortunately, the debate over glyphosate in Germany is shaped by political interests and not by sound scientific insight. Glyphosate is a safe, efficient and established product to secure farmers’ harvests,” he added.
Former German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt triggered an international controversy and domestic row a year ago by unexpectedly backing a European Commission proposal to permit use of glyphosate for the next five years.
Schulze said on Tuesday that no joint plan has yet been agreed with Germany’s Agriculture Ministry under conservative minister Julia Kloeckner.
Although Schulze said she wants to limit glyphosate use in sensitive areas, such as near water, a ban cannot be imposed until late 2023 when the EU approval runs out.
Reporting by Markus Wacket and Ludwig Burger; Writing by Michelle Martin and Michael Hogan; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Alexander Smith