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Fact Files: Glyphosate – Where Are We At?

What is glyphosate?

Glyphosate has been registered for use in Australia as a broad-spectrum herbicide for over 40 years and there are more than 500 products on the market containing it. It has been favoured as it is less toxic than many other Herbicides that pre-dated it.


It is widely used in Agriculture as it allows farmers to control weeds above the ground – doing away with the need to plough or till the soil. This assists to maintain soil nutrients and improve water use efficiency – resulting in higher yield crops. It is also used commonly domestically, in a simple spray bottle as Roundup, to control weeds around the house and garden.


It has however been getting very close attention over the last decade. Globally over 9.5 million tonnes of Glyphosate were applied between 1994-2014. In 2007 twice as much Glyphosate was used in US as the next most heavily sprayed pesticide – Atrazine.

Weed killer herbicide glyphosate being sprayed to control weeds from above the ground.

Glyphosate is extensively used by commercial farmers as well as hobby gardeners in their backyard to control weeds from above the ground.



Developments in scientific research and regulation

Different studies have generated different outcomes to determine whether or not Glyphosate is a possible human carcinogen. In March 2015, the IARC classified Glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). In 2016 the Australian Pharmaceutical and Veterinary Manufacturers Association (APVMA) reviewed the IARC report and other studies and concluded that glyphosate did not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.


In 2010 Glyphosate was patented in the US by Monsanto as an antibiotic – however further studies would need to be performed to demonstrate it as an effective antimicrobial for human or animal infections. A quick literature review draws up a number of studies that have suggested Glyphosate negatively impacts Gut Bacteria in Hens, Bees, Mice, etc. with a range of consequences.


In July 2021, Monsanto owner Bayer AG said it would remove Glyphosate-based herbicides from the US consumer market by 2023 due to tens of thousands of lawsuits brought by people alleging they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to the company’s Glyphosate herbicides, such as Roundup.


So the debate, the scientific studies and the lawsuits will continue as we wait to determine the long-term risks and benefits from this very common product.

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