New rules which restrict the conditions around the use of glyphosate in the European Union are to come into effect in two weeks time, after the rules were published in the EU Official Journal.

Earlier this year, the European Commission granted an 18-month extension to glyphosate's authorisation in the EU after Member States failed to reach agreement on the renewal of the herbicide.

If they had decided not to renew it, or if a decision hadn’t been reached, then Member States would have had to withdraw the authorisations for plant protection products containing glyphosate from their market.

Under the new conditions around the use of the herbicide, there is a ban of a co-formulant (POE-tallowamine) from glyphosate-based products.

POE-tallowamine, one of the co-formulants used for glyphosate-based products, has raised concerns regarding its toxicity to humans when used in plant protection products containing the herbicide.

Other restrictions include obligations to reinforce scrutiny of the pre-harvest use of glyphosate as well as to minimise the use in specific areas, such as public parks, playgrounds and sports grounds.

These new restrictions around the use of the herbicide will apply for the duration of the 18-month extension until the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) issues its opinion on the herbicide.

Speaking earlier this year, the European Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that the last word belongs to the ECHA, this is why the Commission proposes to ask ECHA for its scientific assessment on the carcinogenicity of the herbicide and to extend the current approval of glyphosate until it receives ECHA’s opinion.

Glyphosate's carcinogenicity to humans

Glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient in the Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, has hit the headlines over the past year regarding its carcinogenicity to humans.

Three reports on the chemical have had different conclusions; two reports said that it is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard while the other has said that it probably has the potential to cause cancer in humans.

In the latest report, an UN committee of FAO and WHO experts found that the chemical is unlikely to pose carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

This following a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report in November of 2015 which also found that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.

Meanwhile, a contrasting report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March last year, found that chemical probably has the potential to cause cancer in humans.