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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Glyphosate: ANSES publishes the results of its comparative assessment with the available non-chemical alternatives

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News of 09/10/2020

As part of the government's glyphosate withdrawal plan, ANSES undertook an assessment of non-chemical alternatives to this herbicide. Its results were published on 9 October 2020. Use of glyphosate is now restricted to situations where there is no substitute for this substance in the short term. These restrictions are now taken into account by the Agency when issuing marketing authorisations for products containing glyphosate. 

In November 2018, ANSES undertook an assessment of non-chemical alternatives to glyphosate. The aim was to determine the uses for which this substance could be substituted by non-chemical alternatives and identify deadlock situations where no suitable alternatives are currently available. The assessment referred to Article 50.2 of European Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, which states that a comparative assessment of a plant protection product can be performed "if a non-chemical control or prevention method exists for the same use and it is in general use in that Member State[1]."

The assessment focused on four main areas of use: viticulture, fruit trees, arable crops and forestry (pdf in French, soon in English). ANSES worked to identify the practical or economic drawbacks of alternatives to glyphosate, with the help of three reports produced by INRAE[2]. For forestry, the Agency used information provided by the National Forests Office (ONF) and the National Forest Ownership Centre (CNPF).

 

Situations where glyphosate can be replaced       

The analysis of these studies revealed that alternatives to the use of this herbicide are already in common use and do not have any major practical or economic disadvantages. This is particularly the case with the use of mechanical weeding between rows of vines and fruit trees, or the use of grassed areas. With arable crops[3], ploughing between two annual crop cycles avoids the need for chemical weed-killers.

 

Uses where glyphosate cannot be substituted     

On the other hand, the work carried out by INRAE revealed some situations of technical deadlock, where no commonly used alternative can meet the needs of professionals in the short term without a substantial change in practices, which would have a major impact on agricultural activity.

These technical deadlocks include situations where the use of mechanical tools is impractical, due to stony ground or steep slopes; the unavailability on the French market in the short term of agricultural machinery that would allow weeding under the rows in viticulture and arboriculture; the destruction of perennial weeds that are difficult to eliminate; or conservation agriculture, which does not use ploughing to preserve the soil.

 

ANSES's findings

For viticulture:

  • Ban on using glyphosate between rows of vines: the alternative is allowing grass to grow or carrying out mechanical weeding;
  • Its use is authorised in situations where mechanical weeding is not possible: steeply sloping or terraced vineyards, stony ground, rootstock nurseries;
  • Maximum authorised annual rate restricted to 450 g of glyphosate per hectare, with applications limited to 20% of the plot area, i.e. an 80% reduction compared to the maximum rate currently authorised. 

 

For fruit trees:

  • Ban on using glyphosate between rows of fruit trees: the alternative is allowing grass to grow or carrying out mechanical weeding;
  • Its use is authorised in situations where mechanical weeding is not possible: mechanical harvesting of fruits on the ground (walnuts, cider apples, etc.) or bushy crops (hazelnuts, small fruits);
  • Maximum authorised annual rate restricted to 900 g of glyphosate per hectare, with applications limited to 40% of the plot area, i.e. a 60% reduction compared to the maximum rate currently authorised.

 

For arable crops (cereals, rapeseed, sunflower, etc.):

  • Ban on using glyphosate when the plot has been ploughed between two crops (with certain specific exceptions);
  • Its use is authorised in situations of regulated mandatory control;
  • Maximum authorised annual rate restricted to 1080 g per hectare, i.e. a 60% reduction compared to the maximum rate currently authorised.

 

For forestry:

  • Ban on using glyphosate for killing tree stumps: alternative non-chemical methods must be used;
  • Its use is authorised for forest maintenance solely during the stand establishment period;
  • Its authorisation is maintained for forest nurseries and seed orchards (orchards used to produce seeds for reforestation). 

 

Non-agricultural uses          

The various uses of glyphosate in non-agricultural areas (industrial sites, military sites, railways, motorways, airports, power grid, conservation of historical monuments, etc.) cannot be fully replaced by non-chemical alternatives without major consequences, particularly for the safety of operators and users of these services. Reducing the use of glyphosate in these different situations cannot therefore be addressed by a restriction laid down in the marketing authorisations, but needs to be considered as part of a change in weed-control practices.

 

Conclusions that now apply to every product placed on the market      

The conclusions of this comparative assessment are now taken into account by ANSES when renewing or issuing marketing authorisations (MAs) for products containing glyphosate.

As part of the ongoing review of marketing authorisation applications, on 30 September 2020, ANSES announced to MA holders the renewal of authorisation for three products and two new marketing authorisations, with uses restricted to the conditions identified by the comparative assessment. Four decisions to withdraw or refuse marketing authorisations were also notified.

For the products that have had their MAs renewed, the restrictions on use will be implemented within six months. These limitations on conditions of use and rates applied per hectare will help reduce the quantities of glyphosate used in France from 2021.

 

[1] Article 50.2 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009

[2] INRAE's reports on the economic assessment of alternatives to glyphosate in viticulture, arable crops and arboriculture

[3] Arable crops include cereals, oilseeds (rapeseed, sunflower, soy beans, etc.), protein crops (peas, field beans, etc.) and industrial crops such as beets, potatoes, etc.