Political agreement has been reached in Germany to end use of glyphosate by December 31, 2023. It represents something of a U-turn compared to Germany’s decisive 2017 vote in favour which made possible the EU’s extension of approval of glyphosate use to December 15, 2022.
It is also a setback for Bayer AG, one of Germany’s biggest companies, which acquired Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers as part of its $63 billion takeover of Monsanto last year.
Germany’s phase out of glyphosate will begin next year, with the pesticide’s prohibition in private gardens and parks, specified nature protection zones and protected ecologically sensitive areas, public areas, and for crop desiccation.
Use of glyphosate and substances with the same working mechanism will be severely restricted for pre-planting and post-harvest use (stubble treatment). Areas owned by the federal government shall not be treated with pesticides and biocides, with a few exceptions.
In 2021, there will be additional restrictions on pesticide use, including a ban within 5-10 meters of water.
The German move is part of an action programme for protection of insects, and glyphosate is included because it kills plants considered important feeding grounds for insects.
It will ban use of plant protection products containing glyphosate in Germany after December 31, 2023, which coincides with the expiration of the EU approval for plant protection products containing glyphosate, plus a transition period. At that point, use of glyphosate will become illegal in all of the EU, unless the EU extends the approval in 2022.
Some voices in German agriculture fear restrictions are part of a bigger move against all agro-chemicals, that will make it difficult for farming to remain economically viable.
Glyphosate has been a contentious issue between the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU).
In 2017, the European Commission proposed to renew a glyphosate approval, initially for 10 years, but for five years in its final proposal.
The German minister for food and agriculture, Christian Schmidt (CSU), voted in favour despite German political discord over glyphosate which would normally have required him to abstain. His decision was decisive for reaching a qualified majority, and made the approval possible. As a result, he was severely criticised by German ministries, the SPD party, NGOs, and the public.
The latest plan comes from the federal ministries of food and agriculture and for the environment, nature conservation, and nuclear safety, which share oversight responsibilities for glyphosate.