Glyphosate in the news

The recent court case in the USA has highlighted discussions that have been taking place for a number of years and brought the use and safety of herbicides back into the professional and amateur gardening press.

Glyphosate is an off-patent herbicide used to control broadleaf plants and grasses. It was registered for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1974, started to be used in the UK in 1976, and is currently the most commonly-used herbicide in the world. It is also one of the most studied herbicides, having undergone rigorous review by the EPA, the European Food Safety Administration( EFSA), and the United Nations.

The main evidence against glyphosate is an International Agency for Research on Cancer report from March 2015 which states that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”. However, after much debate the European Chemicals Agency agreed in early 2017 to maintain its classification as a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects but that it did not meet the criteria to classify as a carcinogen. The EU renewed the license for the use of Glyphosate until the end of 2018 stating that “Member States should ensure that the use of plant protection products containing glyphosate is minimised or prohibited in areas such as public parks and gardens, sports and recreation grounds, school grounds and children’s playgrounds and in the close vicinity of healthcare facilities.”

The World Health Organisation listed glyphosate as probably carcinogenic. Numerous other independent research studies have looked into the chemical’s impacts. The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) recent classification of glyphosate as a “probable” human carcinogen in Monograph 112 has garnered significant attention and calls from activists to ban the widely used herbicide.

In 2017 Manchester City Council submitted a report to its Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee about the Use of Glyphosate for weed control and alternative options. It analyses the effectiveness of alternatives.

Sources used for this article and for further reading: