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Austrian parliament approves total glyphosate ban over cancer fears

Sacks of the weedkiller suspected of causing cancer which has now been banned by the Austrian parliament. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Austrian lawmakers have approved a total ban on the controversial weedkiller glyphosate, becoming the first government in the European Union to forbid use of the chemical compound that is suspected to cause cancer.

Lawmakers voted in favour of the ban on all glyphosate products as a "precautionary" measure.

The weedkiller is a component of Roundup, a flagship product marketed worldwide by US giant Monsanto which was taken over by Germany's Bayer in 2018.

The German company promised more "transparency" during the process of renewing the licence of glyphosate in the European Union. EU member states decided in late 2017 to renew the glyphosate licence for five years.

Glyphosate is classified as "probably carcinogenic" by the World Health Organization.

Roundup has been the subject of three costly judgements in California in recent months and is now the subject of more than 13,000 claims in the United States.

Among Austria's EU partners, France said in 2017 it hoped to ban glyphosate within three years, but President Emmanuel Macron has since said such a move could not be "100 percent".

Critics of the Austrian parliament's decision say that it might be illegal under EU law for individual member nations to ban substances that have been approved for use by the union as a whole.

Neither the European Food Safety Authority nor the European Chemicals Agency consider glyphosate to be carcinogenic.