Why is glyphosate so important for European agriculture?
Glyphosate plays an important role in European crop production. It provides many benefits to farmers and facilitates the adoption of sustainable agronomic practices such as conservation agriculture. There has been opposition by some sources to the use of glyphosate, despite its history of safe use for more than 40 years. But, what would be the cost of restricting the use of this herbicide for farmers and consumers?
Recent independent case studies have provided new insights into the economic and ecological consequences of limiting the use of glyphosate in the EU. These “what-if scenarios” predict significant challenges for farmers and posible increased impact on the environment. Food prices would increase and the EU’s share of the global agricultural market would decrease if glyphosate use was restricted. In fact, it is estimated that crop yields for farmers would be reduced by 5% to 40%, depending on the region, and diminish the global market share of several EU crops if glyphosate was no longer available.
A limitation in the availability for farmers of glyphosate is also predicted to have potential implications for land use, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality. By using glyphosate for weed control, farmers in Europe have been able to forgo or significantly reduce traditional ploughing methods. Conventional plough tillage is an energy-intensive process that releases tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the soil. If farmers are forced to fall back on these weed-control methods, CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption of German agriculture are for instance predicted to more than double, while soil erosion could increase six times over in Europe.
Last update: 19 July 2017