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France to vote against European Union licence extension for weed-killer glyphosate

Five-year glyphosate extension has been approved today by Member States

European Union countries broke months of deadlock on Monday when they voted to renew the licence for the controversial weedkiller glyphosate for five years after heavyweight Germany surprisingly voted in favour despite health concerns.

The European Commission said 18 countries had backed the use of the weedkiller, with nine member nations voting against it and one abstaining. Although, Angela Merkel, the chancellor, has been unable to form a coalition government after the country's recent election, the caretaker government swung its support in favor of the weed killer.

In October, the European Parliament called for a full glyphosate ban within five years, starting with an immediate ban of use in public spaces, private gardens and unnecessary farming uses, such as pre-harvest spraying.

Glyphosate's use has been in question since the World Health Organization's cancer agency said in 2015 that it probably causes cancer, but the European Chemical Agency said in March that there was no evidence linking it to cancer in humans. "This is a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment". European Union nations long failed to find a compromise.

Despite welcoming the limited extension, the president of the EU's Copa-Cogeca farmer association, Pekka Pesonen, insisted glyphosate "should have been re-authorized for 15 years after it was given a positive assessment by both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency".

Germany had been expected to abstain again, but agricultural minister Christian Schmidt has been accused of defying instructions by environment minister Barbara Hendricks after he voted in favour.

Banning glyphosate outright would have shaken Europe's agriculture sector, since it is so widely used.

Mr Schmidt is from the Merkel-allied CSU party, while Ms Hendricks is part of the Social Democrats.