Is Glyphosate Going to Disappear?

Let’s fact it — glyphosate is getting no love these days, particularly in the popular press. Almost every day now, it seems, there is another online or print article touting the recent high-profile troubles for the popular herbicide and its primary manufacturer, Bayer. In fact, one such article began: “The world is awash in glyphosate.”


Actually, there is some truth to this statement. According to many recent studies on herbicides, growers and consumers worldwide have applied more than 9.4 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974. This makes glyphosate the most popular herbicide in history. In turn, it’s also one of the most studied and scrutinized herbicides.

Now, for almost this same length of time, glyphosate has had many, many enemies. This inevitably happens when something remains at No. 1 for too long (consider, for instance, how many haters of the New York Yankees or New England Patriots are out there). They have consistently pointed to glyphosate and claimed all manner of evils. Some of the more numerous of these include glyphosate “kills bees” (despite the fact it’s a herbicide and not an insecticide) and it “pollutes waterways and kills fish” (see the previous note). Between 1974 and mid-2015, this “inferred” connection between glyphosate use and “all the evils it caused” largely remained on the fringes.

Then, in late 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization, released a report that used only glyphosate studies that were in the public domain (and not many of those used by global regulatory agencies) and declared glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Quite rapidly, glyphosate opponents latched onto this statement as proof of their arguments, virtually ignoring the word “probably” along the way.

Since then, lawsuits by the thousands have been filed against glyphosate, claiming its use caused cancers in the plaintiffs. A few of these have already been decided against Bayer, and the company has been ordered to pay damages of more than $100 million.

Naturally, many glyphosate opponents are now proclaiming this the “beginning of the end for glyphosate,” boasting that the herbicide will be banned from use. In some countries, such as Vietnam, regulators have moved to remove the herbicide from circulation.

But glyphosate won’t be disappearing completely any time soon. Despite the IARC study, most regulatory agencies around the world still believe in glyphosate’s safety. “There’s no evidence that glyphosate causes cancer,” Alexandra Dunn, an Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a release. “[IARC] is the only agency globally that has connected glyphosate to cancer.”

Expect the debate to continue …

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The problem is not regulatory bodies banning glyphosate. The problem is the courts and juries determining manufactures are liable for cancers in exposed applicators. At this point the science takes a back seat. It just may become too legally risky to make or sell the product. Trial lawyers have been looking for a replacement declining awards from asbestos exposure. Glyphosate is taking up that liability position..

Avatar for Steve Watts Steve Watts says:

Great article, Eric. There is another significant contributing factor to the anti-glyphosate sentiment/hysteria. Many GMO crops are dependent upon glyphosate applications. This is not lost on the opponents of GMO’s who themselves often use the GMO debate to erect trade barriers thinly disguised as health concerns. These folks realize that the elimination of glyphosate could potentially do more to serve their underlying cause than anything else they might attempt. One can only hope that the appeals courts, at some level, will eventually rule against the lower court rulings based on over 40 years of use without any scientifically validated evidence of human health risks, but time will tell.

I wonder if anyone has ever questioned what type of Glyphosate we are talking about ? I mean what type of salt : IPA, Potassium salt, Ammonium salt,… and are all the claims, complaints and public cries targetted and based on the original Standard RoundUp 360 only ? Has one ever made an in-depth comparison between a High Load Glyphosate formulation and the generic standard one that most of people have been using in their gardens, for instance ? The point I am making is that, perhaps, some co-formulants, which you don’t find in all kind of Glyphosate formulations are worse than the glyphosate molecule/salt itself and alone.