# How much does the productivity of modern agriculture depend on Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is the most important herbicide in agriculture by quantity. A committee of the European Union just recently voted against a ban of the substance, after much debate around possible negative effects on human health. I now see a lot of petitions popping up on social media, calling for an immediate ban. This got me wondering: if Glyphosate would be banned in the near future, say in the course of next year, what problems would arise for farmers? Are there viable alternative weed killers, and would productivity be significantly reduced without using one?

• As this question seeks the answer related the relative good produced by using glyphosate shouldn't it also try to answer what is the relative bad it produces. As I recall IARC in has listed it as possible carcinogen. – Communisty Dec 1 '17 at 10:51
• I would say that would be a question on its own with completely different answers and a much larger potential for debate, since apparently there have been multiple conflicting studies about Glyphosate and human health. I also do not think that our agriculture depending on widespread use of chemicals is a positive thing. Not at all actually, and I'm interested whether Glyphosate specifically is necessary for today's life standard and land use or not. – smcs Dec 1 '17 at 12:50
• Good point. Though I'm not sure if this question could be better answered in Chemistry SE or Biology SE. – Communisty Dec 1 '17 at 13:27
• @Communisty: But if you want to be technical, everything is a possible carcinogen - including the oxygen in the air: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0306987783900336 – jamesqf Dec 2 '17 at 3:21
• Dah... Glyphosate is a herbicide not a pesticide. // PS - Don't eat anything since all food contains chemicals. – MaxW Dec 2 '17 at 16:45

Chemistry is not a bad thing; life depends on it. And just because a pesticide or herbicide is natural or synthetic has practically nothing to do with its toxicity. Many so-called natural or organic pesticides are many times more potent than widely-used synthetic ones, as this article mentions.

As to whether or not Glyphosate is necessary, this article explains some of the economic impacts from an outright Glyphosate ban. Some of the effects include:

...French research institute Arvalis suggested a ban would cost that country’s agriculture industry 976 million euros ($1.1 billion). And in Germany, the Kleffmann Group said restrictions could hurt barley and corn output—with profit margin shrinkage between 40 and 70 percent–as farmers start planting alternative, more profitable crops. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, where in 2014 2.2 million hectares of farms—a third of arable land—was treated with glyphosate, Oxford Economics estimated the impact would reduce wheat yields by 12 percent, oilseed/rape yields by 14 percent, and cereal production by 15 percent. Agricultural contributions to the nation’s GDP would shrink by about £930 million ($1.23 billion).

In another article I recall reading (but can't find the citation for), Glyphosate is applied at a rate of only one pint per acre. Farms are not drenched in it as many anti-Glyphosate advocates would have us believe.

As to whether or not Glyphosate is a carcinogen, this article calls much of that into question. Apparently, there were individuals involved who might have benefited substantially by having Glyphosate declared a human carcinogen.

Edit:Some other interesting articles:

Q: Does the herbicide glyphosate cause cancer?

A: There is evidence to suggest it may cause cancer at very high doses, but not at the low doses typically found in foods.

and
The European Chemicals Agency...concluded in March 2017 that “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen.”