EU can't agree on new licence for controversial glyphosate weedkiller

Critics say the controversial weedkiller glyphosate causes cancer

The European Union on Thursday failed to win approval from members to renew a five-year licence for the controversial weedkiller glyphosate, which critics believe causes cancer.

The European Commission said it fell short of the majority needed to renew the license when it expires December 15 as only half of the 28 member states voted for its proposal.

"Given that a qualified majority could not be reached ... the result of the vote is 'no opinion,'" said the commission, the EU executive.

Luxembourg Environment minister Carole Dieschbourg welcomed the outcome when she became one of the first to tweet the result.

"Luxembourg voted against renewal and prolongation. Good outcome for our health and environment!," she said.

The European Commission said 14 states voted for its proposal, including Denmark, Britain and the Netherlands. Nine voted against, including Belgium, France and Italy, while five abstained, including Bulgaria, Poland and Portugal.

The European Commission had originally recommended approving the herbicide's use for another decade.

However, faced with growing uproar over the alleged dangers of glyphosate use, experts balked last month at a renewal and the commission then proposed reducing the timeframe from ten years to five years.

Environmental campaigners Greenpeace and other critics are calling for an outright ban in Europe for glyphosate.

They point to a 2015 study by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer that concluded it was "probably carcinogenic".

The European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency both say glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, in line with a 2016 review carried out by WHO experts and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Monsanto, the US agro-giant that makes weedkiller Roundup, insists glyphosate meets the standards required to renew its European licence.