German Political Storm around Glyphosate Issue

Donal Denvir, Düsseldorf Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board

A major political row has erupted in Germany around the use of the herbicide, glyphosate. The German Minister of Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, has decided to change Germany’s position and vote in favour of the EU allowing the continued use of the controversial phosphonate for another five years. and this has angered their potential coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD has described Schmidt’s vote as a “straightforward breach of trust”, and the Greens have criticised it as a “huge event”. This comes at a particularly sensitive time in German politics where the Angela Merkel-led Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) are struggling to form a government after an extremely poor election showing. This has thrown a serious spanner in the works of coalition talks with the SPD who have also described the move as a “serious breach of trust.”

Lebensmittelzeitung reports that Minister Schmidt confirmed that he acted on his own when saying Yes to further approval of Glyphosate in the EU. “I took a decision myself, within my area of responsibility,” is how the CSU politician responded on the Tuesday morning ARD magazine programme “Morgenmagazin” to the question as to whether he had informed Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) before saying Yes on Monday.

“These are things which you just have to do for yourself. That’s why we’re here. It’s true that politicians who never decide anything never rub people up the wrong way. But they never move the country forwards, either,” said Schmidt in defense of his decision.

The SPD, which was and is explicitly against glyphosate approval, has strongly criticised Schmidt, reports Lebensmittelzeitung. His vote was a “straightforward breach of trust” and also contravened the German government’s internal rules, said SPD Deputy Leader Ralf Stegner.

Schmidt takes the opposite view: “The five years would have happened anyway, even without yesterday’s decision in Brussels.” Without Germany’s agreement, glyphosate would have been approved by the EU Commission without improvements, he argued.

The Greens had already demanded clarification on how the German vote was arrived at. Head of department Renate Künast called it a “huge event”, that German Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt (CSU) had agreed, without reference to the consultation between government departments. “I would like to know whether Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) was aware that this was happening.” If not, she would have to sack the Minister, said Künast to the German Press Agency.

Green party leader Britta Haßelmann put a written question to the government to clarify who had given what instructions to the German representatives on the relevant EU Committee.

Ireland was one of a number of EU Member States who voted in favour of a five-year license extension for Glyphosate on 27 November 2017.