What Happens If We Ban Glyphosate

PG Economics Limited Press Release 25th March 2019: Dorchester, UK

Asian farmers could see annual weed control costs increase by $1.4 to $1.9 billion due to potential restrictions on glyphosate use.

 A new paper published in the journal Agbioforum points to higher weed control costs, less effective weed control, more difficult access to fields and lower yields, if farmers in seven Asian countries could no longer use glyphosate.

While numerous regulatory authorities around the world (e.g., Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority [APVMA], 2017; Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency [CPMRA], 2017; European Food Safety Authority, 2015; Temple, 2016; US Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2016) have re-examined the safety evidence relating to glyphosate since 2015 and subsequently re-affirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer, a number of governments are still considering establishing restrictions or limits on the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Some of these countries are in Asia (e.g., Thailand and Indonesia).

 The peer reviewed paper written by Graham Brookes of PG Economics Ltd examined the current use of glyphosate, the reasons for its use and what changes farmers would make to their weed control programs if glyphosate was no longer available for use. Seven countries were included in the study – Australia, China, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand – as these were representative of countries where glyphosate use in agriculture is significant, countries that may be considering use restrictions for glyphosate and countries were farmers are planting glyphosate tolerant crops.

 Glyphosate is widely used for weed control across Asia and few alternatives are available that provide equivalent levels of performance in field and plantation crops. Without access to glyphosate, farmers reported they would use additional herbicide combinations and/or rely on mechanical/hand weeding options. These alternatives would have significant impacts including reduced weed control, increased pest levels, reduced access to fields and higher weed control costs.

 The study estimates that annual weed control costs would increase across the seven countries by between $1.4 billion and $1.9 billion, with average increases in cost ranging from $22/ha to $30/ha. This is a significant increase in production costs and if the potential impact of lower yields is included, this represents an important loss of global competitiveness for farmers who lose access to glyphosate.

Graham Brookes (2019) Glyphosate use in Asia and implications of possible restrictions on its use. Agbioforum, online advance publication, 1-27 http://www.agbioforum.org/v22n1/v22n1-brookes.pdf