Can I still use a glyphosate weedkiller in my garden?
I have several containers of glyphosate herbicide in stock which I plan to use in my garden. However I have read conflicting information about this, some of which says that it is banned in France. I thought a ban had been put off for several years. Can you clarify? P.T.
You should not be using this product as, along with several other chemical pesticides and herbicides, it was banned from sale – and from being used by the general public – on January 1 this year.
Glyphosate is increasingly controversial, with claims that it is dangerous for human health and biodiversity.
An American court recently ruled that Bayer, producer of the world’s most-used glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup, must pay €72million to a man who had used the product to control weeds at his home for years. He had developed a cancer which the court considered to be linked to the product.
The French ban came in gradually, starting with products being taken off free-service shelves in January 2017 and then being sold only by garden centres from locked stores after, in theory, staff had given advice on its use and alternatives.
This came after its use was banned in public spaces and communal green areas.
Only certain products deemed to have minimal health risks, and notably ones that are authorised in organic gardening, are now allowed.
You therefore can no longer buy glyphosate herbicide and if you have any left in stock, you should take the containers to your local tip and dispose of them in a container for household chemicals. Use of these products is still legal for professionals.
The EU has authorised the use of glyphosate for a further five-year term, ending in 2022, but it is due to be reviewed again before then.
President Macron said in 2017 he would ban its use in France by 2021 but later said this would not be possible for 10% of professional cases. He said there are specialised kinds of farming, such as conservation agriculture (protecting the soil from erosion) where there are not yet effective alternatives.
French MPs have so far refused to vote a law banning it. However one glyphosate product, Roundup Pro 360, often used in vineyards, was banned from sale in France after a court judgment in Lyon.
Opposition to use of glyphosate has been building in Europe and a 1.3million-signtaure petition was sent to the European Commission recently.
One result is that from the end of 2020, when a firm seeks authorisation to sell a new glyphosate product the research it presents in support of its safety will have to be made publicly available. This is so the public and scientists can check the claims. A database will also be set up to publish all industrial studies on glyphosate products, as soon as any data is available. This is to avoid a previous situation where firms were found to have only published data favourable to them.
Monsanto, the biggest maker of glyphosate products, recently lost a case, also in Lyon, about a different herbicide, taken off sale in France in 2007. A French farmer sued after being poisoned while inspecting a spray tank. The firm is considering appealing saying the product was safe if used according to the instructions.
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