BRUSSELS France will vote on Friday against the continued use of weedkiller glyphosate, its environment minister said, adding to uncertainty over the future of widely-used products such as Monsanto's Roundup in the European Union.
The EU license for glyphosate expires at the end of June and, if it is not extended, manufacturers will have six months to phase-out products containing the common herbicide.
Contradictory findings on the carcinogenic risks of the chemical have pitted farming and chemical lobbies against citizen and environmental groups, making some EU politicians reluctant to approve its continued use.
"France will vote against the glyphosate vote," Segolene Royal told journalists, ahead of a meeting of EU environment ministers on Monday.
The European Commission - after failing to win support for a proposal to renew the license for glyphosate for up to 15 years - had offered a 12 to 18 month extension pending further scientific study.
As big EU nations France and Germany abstained from a vote earlier this month, even the compromise proposal lacked enough support to be adopted.
The matter has now been referred to an appeal committee of political representative of the 28 EU nations, expected on June 24. If no decision is reached by qualified majority there, then the European Commission could choose to act on its own.
The Commission wanted the temporary extension to allow time for a study by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which it hopes will allay health concerns.
The topic is also on the agenda of a meeting of member state experts on June 28.
Monsanto has defended the safety of glyphosate and has not ruled out a legal appeal if its license is not extended.
Bernstein senior analyst Jonas Oxgaard has estimated Monsanto could see earnings reduced by up to $100 million if the EU were to halt glyphosate sales.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Mark Potter)