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Austria's glyphosate ban thrown into doubt

[VIENNA] Austria's government appeared to cast doubt Monday on whether a total ban on the controversial herbicide glyphosate would be implemented next month, despite MPs voting for the measure earlier this year.

Parliament approved the ban in July, making Austria the first EU member state to do so, but the government has now warned of a possible legal clash with Brussels if it implements the ban.

According to a government briefing note sent to AFP, the European Commission did not formally veto the measure but sent Vienna a letter criticising the way the ban was introduced and "left open the possibility of infringement proceedings".

Glyphosate is classified as "probably carcinogenic" by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but the EU in December 2017 renewed the weedkiller's licence across Europe for five years.

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However, supporters of the ban were quick to point out on Monday that Brussels had not sought to prevent the ban from coming into force.

"Neither the European Commission nor any other member state has formulated any legal objection that would stop the ban," said Greenpeace.

The pressure group insisted in a statement that "the glyphosate ban can therefore enter into force on January 1 2020 as planned (in the bill)", a stance echoed by the Green party.

July's vote in parliament took the government by surprise as it had not proposed the legislation.

It passed thanks to a temporary alliance of all parties in parliament save the centre-right People's Party (OeVP).

The current technocratic administration took over after the collapse of the previous OeVP-led government in May.

Asked about the matter on Monday, the environment ministry could not confirm how -- or when -- the ban would enter into effect.

Initially the technocrat government said it was waiting for the European Commission to rule on whether the ban would conform to EU rules.

The current interim government will remain in place until a new coalition emerges from the results of early elections held in September.

The OeVP, led by ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, finished as by far the single largest party in the poll.

The OeVP is now in coalition talks with the other big winners of September's poll, the Greens, who support the glyphosate ban.

AFP