Glyphosate Facts

Transparency on safety aspects and use of glyphosate-containing herbicides in Europe


Higher yields and easier harvests

Use of glyphosate herbicides has become widespread in Europe because of the benefits they offer farmers. Glyphosate herbicides control weeds that might otherwise persist for several years, competing with crop plants for water, light and nutrients. For perennial grasses and their root systems, glyphosate has an average control rate of 90%. Unlike several other herbicides which act on either monocotyledons or dicotyledons, glyphosate is effective on all weeds, providing broad-spectrum control. Applying glyphosate before the new crop is planted has the potential to produce up to 30% higher harvests for many of Europe’s major crops, depending on the weed population and other conditions 4,5.

Weeds not only compete with crops for light, water and nutrients, they may also act as disease vectors for aphids that transmit plant viruses (© Thomas Max Müller/

As well as applying the herbicide before the crop plants emerge, farmers in some countries such as the UK use glyphosate as a harvest aid to reduce grain moisture levels. This reduces drying costs and accelerates the maturation process of crops like maize, oilseed rape and cereals.

Glyphosate enables farmers to establish crops relatively quickly and easily because it can be used with a “minimum tillage” approach. Chemical weed control has been shown to be more cost-effective than ploughing in some situations. The reduced tillage practises supported by glyphosate applications have for instance reduced labor requirements by up to 61% 1. A UK comparison of plough-based and glyphosate-based weed control practices estimated that ploughing approaches are approximately twice as costly and time consuming as chemical weed control 2.

This improvement in weed control efficiency not only has economical benefits, but has also improved the safety of farmers and weed control operators. Transportation accidents and the use of heavy machinery are still the prevailing causes of deadly accidents in agriculture. Reducing the number of tillage operations supported by glyphosate herbicides have thereby significantly improved safety for operators which is supported by the decreasing number of fatal farm accidents during the last decades 7. Additionally, glyphosate applications that remove thorny, allergenic or irritant weeds reduce the risk of injuries for farmers and facilitate the visibility and access to farm spaces where dangerous hazards may remain hidden by weeds.  

Another important benefit for farmers is that glyphosate also breaks the “green bridge”, removing weeds that might otherwise act as an intermediate host for parasites and other disease vectors when young crops are emerging. Aphids, for instance, are a common vector of plant viruses such as the barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) that can destroy up to half of many cereal crops. Applying glyphosate removes potential aphid host plants, reducing the risk of virus-carrying aphids transferring from weeds to the crop plants when they emerge.


Cited references

Last update: 21 November 2013