Joint press release with the Federal Environment Ministry

Minister Schulze presents plan for glyphosate phase-out

New authorisation procedure for plant protection products to complement phase-out

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Extensive use of the broadband herbicide glyphosate is harmful to biodiversity
Source: Martina Chirnielewski / Fotolia.com

The Federal Ministry for Environment has presented a plan for the gradual phase-out of the use of the broadband herbicide glyphosate. The Use of Pesticides Ordinance will be amended for this purpose. The German Environment Agency as competent body for the authorisation procedure seeks to make the authorisation of products which harm biodiversity contingent upon certain conditions of their use. Farmers who want to apply these pesticides on cropland must ensure there is a certain minimum share of pesticide-free space as habitat for animals and plant species. This restriction will apply not only to glyphosate but also to all pesticides which have proven to be harmful to biodiversity.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said: "This coalition agreed to stop the use of glyphosate. The easiest way to introduce a ban on the substance at EU level has been obstructed until the end of 2022 because the former Minister of Food and Agriculture voted in Brussels in favour of an extension of its use – contrary to the agreement which the Federal Government had reached at that time. We must now resort to all legal means at our disposal at national level to phase out glyphosate. Glyphosate has been proven to threaten biodiversity in our agricultural landscape. The great majority of the population welcomes more natural farming practices without the use of glyphosate. We must move forward and make drastic reductions in the massive application of pesticides in general. There is no advantage gained for our environment if other, even more harmful pesticides than glyphosate are used instead. We will therefore call for new nature conservation requirements to be part of the authorisation procedure for every plant protection product (PPP) which is harmful to biodiversity."

UBA President Maria Krautzberger said: "As long as the use of glyphosate is permitted in the EU, the law cannot entirely prevent its use under the current authorisation procedure. Also we must take advantage of every opportunity to prevent the worst effects of its use on biodiversity by putting new effective requirements in place. This is why farmers will have to reserve certain plots as biodiversity areas, where wild animals such as the skylark, partridge, wild bees and butterflies can find enough food. The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety must take up these rules of application in the authorisation procedure as the products will otherwise not be approvable. This will ensure a much higher level of protection of biodiversity than before.”

Like many other PPP glyphosate has a serious impact on biological diversity in the agricultural landscape. As a total herbicide it makes no distinction as it destroys all vegetation and therefore the food and natural environment of many types of insects and birds such as butterflies and the skylark. Scientific evidence has proven this to be true.

The Federal Government has taken this reason among others to agree in its coalition agreement to end the use of glyphosate. Stopping the use of glyphosate will be a gradual process in which the Federal Environment Ministry will cooperate with the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) as lead department. BMEL has already proposed a ban on the use of glyphosate in private garden and parks.

The Federal Environment Ministry considers it both feasible and necessary to take up the following restrictions in the amended Use of Pesticides Ordinance:

  • a ban on the application of glyphosate in ecologically sensitive areas and in water protection areas,
  • a ban on pre-sowing and stubble treatment and desiccation in field cropping and specialty crops; these partial bans must be valid despite any blanket exceptions,
  • the establishment of a standard distance to bodies of water along the same lines of the regulations concerning riparian zones

A bundle of measures of this kind is able to minimise the use of glyphosate quickly and in a framework that is in compliance with EU rules. Furthermore, the BMU will seek to establish a regulation in the Use of Pesticides Ordinance which ends every legal use of glyphosate when approval at EU level expires and by the end of the transitional period in late 2023.

The authorisation procedure for PPP will be contingent in future upon requirements to protect biodiversity and is applicable to all agents which are proven to harm biodiversity. Starting 1 January 2020 farmers who use such PPP must dedicate plots on their fields as “biodiversity spaces”. The application of any PPP on these spaces will be banned. UBA includes blossoming areas, fallow land and cereal fields with low sowing density in its recognition of biodiversity spaces. These spaces are lacking in many parts of the agricultural landscape, wreaking havoc on biodiversity. The average share of these areas is 10 per cent depending on ecological valence. Experts recommend this rate as the minimum to provide a refuge area for insects, birds or mammals. 

The German Environment Agency has forwarded the first notifications which reflect these new requirements for the authorisation of PPP containing glyphosate to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). Approval of these products is subject to renewal this year by the BVL, which is in the remit of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Approval requires the consent of UBA, which is responsible for the assessment of impact on biodiversity. 

EU law specifically requires that PPP may only be authorised if they have no unacceptable effects on the environment and in special consideration of biological diversity.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau
Germany