The European Commission has extended the license for European farmers to use the popular weedkiller glyphosate by five years. That's good news: Every scientific committee and regulatory agency but one that has evaluated the safety of the glyphosate has found it safe for human beings and the natural environment. And the sole exception, a highly conflicted report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, was marked by confirmation bias and conflict of interest.
So science and evidence won out over a massive disinformation campaign run by anti-pesticide and anti-GMO activists funded by the Big Organic. Naturally, those activists are furious that they were not able to scare the commission into a glyphosate ban.
"Today's approval, even if only for five years, is a missed opportunity to get rid of this risky weedkiller and start to get farmers off the chemical treadmill," Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe told Agence France-Presse. Greenpeace's Franziska Achterberg added: "The people who are supposed to protect us from dangerous pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them."
Sadly, French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed that the herbicide will be banned in his country.
One of the most clear-eyed analysts of anti-technology disinformation campaigns is David Zaruk, who teaches risk communications at Université Saint-Louis Brussel. At his Risk-Monger blog, Zaruk pulls no punches about how close activists came to derailing evidence-based decision-making:
Clearly the activists had the perfect storm with glyphosate. So many other interests collided over the last two years, with new trans-Atlantic partnerships of vile opportunists and silos of slime forming into armies of intolerance, including:
• Anti-GMO American carpetbaggers salivating at removing the chief motivation for farmers to benefit from Roundup-Ready maize and soy by manipulating the European precautionary handicap.
• American class-action lawyers seeking to exploit the EU's hazard-based regulatory approach to create a confusion over the safety of public health exposure to profit from lawsuits against industry.
• Anti-industry activist groups from both sides of the Atlantic have united flush with funds from the burgeoning organic food industry lobby seeking to incapacitate conventional farming and create market-friendly conditions for their unsustainable agricultural production process.
• An alarming scientific ignorance at the heart of the European Commission. Many of the activist groups involved in pushing their anti-evidence agenda were involved in removing the post of EU Chief Scientific Adviser just three years ago.
• Agroecologists have been pining to return Europe to a pre-industrial Malthusian paradise, and banning the use of agri-technology was their first important step. Having their lunatics in charge of the European risk assessment process would have been the icing on the cake! Not just yet.
Only time will tell if politicians and regulators can continue to resist such chemophobic campaigns.