Updated at 8.12pm with PAN Europe reaction

EU countries have approved the use of weed-killer glyphosate for the next five years after a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

Europe has been wrestling for the past two years over what to do with the chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto's top-selling Roundup, whose licence was set to expire on December 15.

Protestors hoped they'd convince EU countries not to renew the licence of a controversial weed killer. But their tug-a-war outside the European Commission failed to sway those voting inside.

There was heated debate over whether the key ingredient of Monsanto's top-selling Roundup causes cancer.

But in the end 18 countries approved the use of glyphosate for another five years, although nine countries - including Malta - voted against.

• In favour 18 MS, 65,71% : BG, DE, CZ, DK, EE, IE, ES, LV, LT, HU, NL, PL, RO, SV, SK, FI, SE, UK
• Against 9 MS, 32.26 % : BE, EL, FR, HR, IT, CY, LU, MT, AT
• Abstained 1 MS, 2.02%: PT

Three Member States that had previously abstained (Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania) because they considered the renewal period too short, now changed their position and voted in favour.

Germany, who had also abstained, voted in favor without the consensus from the German ministry of environment. Germany’s Social Democrat Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks clearly stated that the decision was taken without their agreement.

PAN Europe’s Environmental Toxicologist, Angeliki Lysimachou stated: "Although this might seem an improvement compared to the original 15-year proposal, it does not address the concerns of Europeans and provides no guarantee that the general public and the environment will be protected from the harmful effects of this chemical. This decision reveals once again the sad truth that governments are more keen to protect the highly profitable pesticide industry than the health of their people and the environment."

The chemical has been used by farmers for more than 40 years. Its safety was cast in doubt in 2015 when a World Health Organisation agency concluded it probably causes cancer.

Then in March this year the European Chemicals Agency released a study which showed no links to the disease in humans.

Many farmers were against a ban saying the economic cost of controlling weeds without the chemical would be too great.

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