Case Study on Glyphosate

Glyphosate is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides, used in European agriculture to control weeds in a wide range of crops. The substance’s license was recently renewed, causing outrage and controversy due to its assumed connection to carcinogenic effects on humans and animals. Studies have both proven and disproven these carcinogenic effects, calling into question whether the substance should be discontinued until full safety is established. Additionally, glyphosate may be a hazard to habitats and biodiversity in farmlands and aquatic ecosystems, as it is non-selective and potentially harmful. Due to these potential impacts on health and biodiversity and the degree of uncertainty, the precautionary principle applies.

This case study analyses the role that the precautionary principle played in the EU procedures for the re-approval of glyphosate. It also discusses how the application of the precautionary principle in this case interacts with innovation and especially the ‘innovation principle’ which is recently gaining traction in the EU discourse.

The full Case Study can be downloaded HERE



In this video, Sabrina Röttger-Wirtz, Assistant professor of EU law at Maastricht University, presents her RECIPES case study on the application of the precautionary principle in the EU renewal procedure of the glyphosate approval in 2017. The risks surrounding potential carcinogenicity, but also other risks to human health and environment are debated in the scientific community. Although the substance was not prohibited, the precautionary principle features prominently in the Pesticides Regulation which determines the re-approval procedure.

You find an article of case-study author Sabrina Röttger-Wirtz on the precautionary principle and its role in judicial review for the case of glyphosate here.

Partner: Maastricht University


Sabrina Röttger-Wirtz, Maastricht University


With thanks to: Laura Drivdal, Rosanne Edlenbosch, Tijs Sikma, Jeroen van der Sluijs, Siebe Rozendal, Ellen Vos for their insightful comments on an earlier draft.


Video recording: Sabrina Röttger-Wirtz (Maastricht University)

Animation: Lena Aebli (Ecologic Institute)

Produced by Ecologic Institute 2020,

Case Study
Publishing Date