In a move to help farmers the MPs rejected an amendment setting a deadline to end glyphosate use if no alternative was found in three years.
Glyphosate has been said to be carcinogenic and MEPs in the European Parliament last autumn voted to renew its licence for only five years rather than the 15 years wanted by the agro-chemical industry.
The latest vote came as EU countries agreed to ban three neonicotinoid pesticides from 2019 as research showed Europe lost 80% of its insects in three decades, with neonicotinoids particularly harmful to bees, which are vital pollinators.
Beekeepers in Dordogne have revealed that they have lost 3,000 hives and millions of bees this year with huge mortality after fields were sprayed.
Intensive farming practices have been increasingly blamed for ill-effects in the human population and glyphosate – a non-selective herbicide that kills most plants – makes up a quarter of herbicides sold globally.
But Landes cereal and medicinal herb farmer Nicolas Jaquet, who has 60% of his farm in organic farming, said: “Glyphosate is essential in parts of my farm as there is no alternative.
“Yes, I can hoe the fields and I do, but glyphosate leaves no residue so is ideal to clear a field of weeds and give the crop a chance to grow or to dry a crop before harvest.
“In addition, European farming is much more precise in its usage... if we ban glyphosate in Europe it will make no difference as there is a much greater usage in food imports from the US, Canada and South America.
“That is a major problem.”
Suzanne Dalle, of Greenpeace, said it sent a bad signal that if there was no alternative substance farmers could continue to use glyphosate in the future.
“We are finding traces of glyphosate everywhere in our environment because it is so heavily used in mass farm food production. This must stop.”
A group of rural farmers in Réseau CIVAM say changing farming practices can lead to the end of glyphosate use or a serious cut in the amount.
They point to crop rotation as a way to keep down weeds and say farmers should have several options and not just herbicide.
Farmer and MP Jean-Baptiste Moreau, who led proposals for the new agriculture law, said he had spoken to President Macron and he would keep his pledge of a ban in three years.
France’s No1 farming union, FNSEA, blocked the Champs-Elysées with a protest last year and has said it will reduce glyphosate usage from its present 8,000 tonnes a year.
It is used mainly to kill weeds in corn, rape, cereals, peas and potato crops and has seen much scientific debate. WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said it was “probably carcinogenic” but the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said it was “unlikely”.
Both studies have been challenged as the IARC report edited out non-carcinogenic findings and the EFSA report had text from studies paid for by a glyphosate maker, Monsanto.
The domestic version Roundup has not been banned but some products containing it have been. Home use of glysophate is banned from January 1, 2019.