As a country, Germany has a great reputation in science and scientific endeavors. In fact, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to 108 German scientists and the country produces the second highest number of science and engineering graduates in the world (trailing only South Korea). Notable German scientists include Hans Geiger, inventor of the Geiger counter, Wernher von Braun, developer of the space rocket, and of course Albert Einstein.
Considering this history of a love of science by Germany, it makes the country’s recent decision regarding glyphosate use all the more concerning. In early September, the German government announced it had passed legislation to ban the use of the popular herbicide within its borders by 2023. In the interim, Germany will put into place a phased effort to reduce its use of glyphosate, starting with prohibiting the use of the herbicide in domestic gardens and on the edge of farmers’ fields.
According to the German Cabinet, the country agreed to the ban as part of its insect conversation program. “What harms insects also harms people,” said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze in a released statement. “What we need is more humming and buzzing.”
Obviously, for anyone who knows anything about science, this statement is troubling. Glyphosate by scientific classification is a herbicide (which means it affects plants), not an insecticide (which affects insects). For another, glyphosate’s current owner, Bayer, is headquartered in Germany, in part because of the country’s deep understanding and embrace of the scientific process.
Speaking of Bayer, the company naturally disagrees with Germany’s stance on planning to ban glyphosate based upon anything but sound science. “We disagree with the German government’s decision to ban glyphosate by the end of 2023,” Liam Condon, head of Bayer’s Crop Science Division, said in a statement. “The ruling ignores decades of scientific judgment from independent regulatory agencies around the world that glyphosate is safe when used properly.”
Given how many years away we are from 2023, it will be interesting to see how this glyphosate ban by Germany might play out in the months and years ahead. But hopefully, science, not popular opinion, will once again move to the forefront of Germany’s future regulatory policies.