Glyphosate Facts

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

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... history of glyphosate

The substance glyphosate was initially discovered in 1950 by a Swiss chemist, Henri Martin, at the pharmaceutical company Cilag. At that stage the product had no pharmaceutical purpose, and it was not until the seventies that glyphosate was discovered to have herbicidal activity. At that time Monsanto Company was testing different compounds as potential water-softening agents when it found that two molecules closely related to glyphosate had some herbicidal activity against perennial weeds. The scientist John Franz then synthesized derivatives of those two compounds and quickly discovered glyphosate to be a potent herbicide, which was subsequently patented under the trade name “Roundup®”. Roundup® was first commercialized in Malaysia for rubber and in the United Kingdom for wheat in 1974. The first US approval, also in 1974, was for industrial non-crop use. In agriculture, glyphosate was first developed for weed control in stubbles in all crops. Later its use was extended to include additional applications including pre-harvest in cereals and oilseed crops.

Dr John Franz (© Monsanto)

Since its first introduction, glyphosate has become one of the most widely used broad-spectrum herbicides around the globe with a significant impact on worldwide crop production practices. For “the impact of glyphosate upon the production of agricultural food and fibre throughout the world”, the scientist John Franz received the U.S. National Medal of Technology in 1987.

Initially patented by Monsanto, glyphosate is now marketed by over 40 companies under an assortment of trade names, after its US patent expired in 2000. Glyphosate is now widely registered in all the countries of the European Union including France, Germany and Sweden, representing each of the regulatory zones, South, Central and North. Over 2000 plant protection products containing glyphosate are currently registered in Europe for use on croplands. Its broad-spectrum effectiveness and the simplicity of weed control have made glyphosate one of the most popular herbicides in agriculture, gardens and non-cultivated areas.

Last update: 25 October 2012