EU Parliament Members Test Urine for Glyphosate Ahead of Vote on the Herbicide Chemical

glyphosate urine testing

On Monday and Tuesday, 150 members of the European Parliament (MEP) donated urine samples to find out if they have glyphosate in their systems. The screening comes ahead of a symbolic vote in the European Union that is scheduled for Wednesday, April 12, on whether to re-license the RoundUp chemical for another 15 years. [1]

A poll of more than 7,000 of citizens living in the EU’s 5 biggest states found that the majority of people oppose the use of glyphosate – 75% of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French, and 56%t of Britons.

Earlier this year, the EU’s Committee on Environment, Food, Safety, & Public Health (ENVI) formally objected to the re-authorization of glyphosate by the European Commission.

But the results of the pee test won’t make a difference when the MEP votes this week on a resolution passed by Parliament’s environment committee last month recommending that the re-licensing of the herbicide be put on the back burner until an independent review into whether glyphosate is a carcinogen can be completed. [2]

Glyphosate is a controversial and often confusing topic in every area of the world where the toxic herbicide touches crops. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), however, said in November 2015 that glyphosate probably isn’t carcinogenic, proposing a higher exposure limit on the daily amount of glyphosate residue.

The commission says that if the renewal of the license is rejected, then it “will not bring the reauthorization of glyphosate to a conclusion.” The current license for glyphosate is set to expire in June.

Glyphosate has been detected in humans and our immediate environment and in several studies. In 2013, a Friends of the Earth Europe study found that people in 18 European countries have traces of glyphosate in their urine. A German study released this past February revealed 14 of the most popular brands of German beer tested positive for the chemical. That research was the inspiration behind the MEP’s urine testing. A recent study also found glyphosate in 100% of 14 California wines.

Source: Times of Malta. Click for source data.

There are several options on the table, commission negotiators say, including a shorter extension of the license, and a ban on certain co-formulants (surfactants) which increase plant uptake of glyphosate. Some of the co-formulants used alongside glyphosate may be just as harmful as glyphosate itself. But there are few toxicology studies on surfactants, especially when they are mixed with other substances. [1]

However, one study found that:

“A major qualitative difference between the effect of glyphosate and glyphosate formulations on aquatic and terrestrial organisms concerns the surfactant used in Roundup. The surfactant is much more toxic than glyphosate to aquatic organisms. Unlike glyphosate, the surfactant is more toxic in alkaline water than in acidic water.

Thus, the relative potency of the surfactant with respect to glyphosate is pH dependent. There is relatively little information regarding the toxicity of Roundup Pro to aquatic species. Nonetheless, the acute lethal potencies of Roundup and Roundup Pro are similar.”

The reliability of test results has been a big issue in the EU, which has only added to the confusion and miscommunication regarding glyphosate’s safety. The co-formulants of the chemical were apparently not tested along with the main ingredient in the EU.

The Netherlands wants to postpone the decision to re-license glyphosate until the end of 2017, which would give the European Chemicals Agency time to complete a full study of glyphosate and its surfactants.

EU Parliament. Source: Independent Balkan News Agency
EU Parliament. Source: Independent Balkan News Agency

Of the EU’s 28 states, 11 of them are unlikely to back re-licensing glyphosate. The poll of the EU’s 5 biggest states will no doubt fuel opponents of the Roundup ingredient.


[1] The Guardian

[2] EcoWatch

Digital Journal

Times of Malta

Independent Balkan News Agency (Image source)