A world without glyphosate

New study details the potential impacts of banning glyphosate

A recent study concludes that the loss of glyphosate as a viable tool for agriculture would result in doubled input costs for farmers, increased soil erosion, increased carbon emissions, and increased costs for consumers.

“We assess that if glyphosate were no longer available, markets would adapt through substitution and adjusted practices, but at a substantial cost to farmers and the environment. U.S. farmers would bear the burden of increased input and operating costs with small farmers disproportionately affected. Further analysis reveals a cascading chain of likely higher-order effects and unintended consequences, the most impactful being the rapid release of additional greenhouse gases and the reversal of decades of conservation and sustainability gains,” the study said.

The study was conducted by Ohio-based Aimpoint Research, a global strategic intelligence firm specializing in agri-food. 

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a nonselective herbicide that blocks an enzyme essential for plant growth. Washington dryland wheat farmers mainly use glyphosate to kill weeds on fallow fields to conserve moisture for the next wheat crop. Glyphosate is an essential tool in direct seed and no-till production methods because it controls weeds without the need for tillage. The chemical has been the target of numerous lawsuits, and various states have considered banning or restricting its use, despite Environmental Protection Agency studies showing no risks to children or adults when label directions are followed.

Aimpoint looked at how the loss of glyphosate would impact five key areas:

  • Economic impact on agriculture. Growers would switch to alternative chemicals that cost more, and they would increase tillage practices. Production costs would increase by over $1.9 billion.
  • Environmental. Alternative products could compromise water quality, wildlife, aquatic species, and overall health and safety. Increased tillage could also disrupt soil health and increase erosion and emissions, with a potential release of 33.72 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Farmers would likely decrease double cropping and cover cropping, reducing soil carbon capture and impacting renewable fuels. 
  • Food prices. The increase in production costs would add inflationary pressure on food prices and decrease consumer spending on proteins and increase the procurement costs of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP. 
  • Innovation. Progress towards the development of future weed control technologies would stall due to limited return on investment and regulatory uncertainty.
  • Geopolitics. China’s burgeoning glyphosate market would likely continue growing, allowing their agriculture sector to benefit from increased production efficiency and conservation. The EU may face amplified challenges due to historic resistance to such innovations, while countries like Mexico might consider U.S. regulations as indicative of broader trends, despite an overall global shift towards accepting agricultural innovation.

To read the full report, visit report.aimpointresearch.com.