Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It is a broad-spectrum herbicide, i.e. it kills any plant unless it has been genetically modified in such a way so as to be resistent. Glyphosate is more commonly known under the brand name "Roundup" manufactured by the American agrochemical company Monsanto (now owned by Bayer).

Glyphosate was deemed safe for a long time. Recently, evidence emerged that glyphosate may be harmful for humans, animals, and the environment. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a report according to which glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans". In May 2016, however, the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) – an expert body administered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – concluded that glyphosate is "not carcinogenic". This assessment is shared by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, BfR), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in the US. The different conclusions result from different assessment standards. IARC examines whether a certain substance can cause cancer in principle, whereas EFSA and FAO/WHO investigates whether the de facto use of glyphosate causes cancer.

Glyphosate is currently approved in the EU until 15 December 2022. On 12 December 2019, a group of companies (the so-called Glyphosate Renewal Group) applied for the renewal of approval of glyphosate. This application will be reviewed by a group of four EU member states: France, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Sweden (the so-called Assessment Group on Glyphosate).

Website of the IARC Online Version

Website of the BfR Online Version (German)

Website of EFSA Online Version

Website of the JMPR Online Version

Website of the EU on glyphosate Online Version

In Germany there is no consensus among political parties regarding the use of glyphosate. However, a permanent ban on glyphosate is controversial. Farmers would have to combine different pesticides to achieve a similar effect. A non-chemical alternative would be to remove weeds mechanically, but this would lead to more labor and less yields. Researchers from the University of Gießen estimate that costs may increase by 5–11 % and yields may decrease by 5–10 %.

Dickeduisberg, M./ Steinmann, H.-H./ Theuvsen, L. (2012): Erhebungen zum Einsatz von Glyphosat im deutschen Ackerbau. Tagungsband 25. Deutsche Arbeitsbesprechung über Fragen der Unkrautbiologie und -bekämpfung. 25. März 2012, Braunschweig, Julius-Kühn-Archiv 434, 459-462. DOI: 10.5073/jka.2012.434.056 Online Version (German)

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