SNCF confirms its exit from glyphosate in 2022

A heavy user of glyphosate, SNCF confirms its replacement in 2022 by an alternative solution that is less effective and more expensive, but which should allow it to properly weed the tracks. “SNCF Réseau will no longer use glyphosate in 2022, in accordance with its commitments,” Matthieu Chabanel, deputy general manager in charge of projects, maintenance and operation of the public manager of railways told AFP.

Alternative solutions considered

“We are working on alternative treatment solutions, as well as their terms of use, in view of the next treatment period” in the spring, he added.

For SNCF Réseau, weeding is a safety requirement: vegetation could retain water and deform the platform (and therefore the rails) of its 30,000 km of lines. The tufts of grass could also interfere with the laser beams checking the track gauge or interfere with the inspection tours of the railway workers. As for the runways along the tracks, they must be cleared so that the agents can move quickly and, if necessary, evacuate travelers in the event of a problem.

SNCF was the largest user of glyphosate in France, consuming 35 to 38 tonnes per year, or 0.4% of the total, of this product accused of causing cancer. It had committed to no longer use it from the end of 2021, complying with a promise – since abandoned – from President Emmanuel Macron to ban its use by this deadline. The European Union has so far reauthorized glyphosate until December 2022.

An efficient but more expensive solution

SNCF Réseau will instead use a product composed of more than 95% pelargonic acid, a biocontrol product (using natural products) and a synthetic molecule from the sulfonylurea family.

The new solution is less efficient, more expensive, more viscous and requires larger volumes to be loaded, according to SNCF Réseau. It will only be used on tracks and tracks, but not on their surroundings, which will have to be mown, in accordance with the recent Egalim law (for the balance of trade relations in the agricultural and food sector and a healthy, sustainable and accessible to everyone).

The additional maintenance cost linked to the release of glyphosate and the Egalim law is estimated by the public group at around one hundred million euros per year – an amount for the moment supported by the government stimulus plan.

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