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Glyphosate, Good, Bad?


The argument over the use of Glyphosate has been going on unabated for some years, as usual there are two sides to the argument and both use exaggerated terms and statistics to prove their case, case studies abound on both sides.
Big pharma is the bogy man to one group and simplistic back nature environmentalists are the other group, as is the case most of the bad press comes from negligent usage rather than the herbicide itself, and of course there is the ‘bad’ globalist conglomerate versus the environmentalist lobby looking for government money, something that is prevalent in todays society.
I have my own views on Glyphosate having used a lot commercially over a long period, but those views will not be expressed here, unless something contradicts what I believe to be a fact rather than a supposition on the herbicide.


Interesting article, thanks.

I think this is a classic case where “risk” and “hazard” get a bit muddled, and it is important for people to understand and differentiate the two concepts as they are often used interchangeably.

Something (perhaps Glyphosate in this case) can be very hazardous if used inapproriately, and at a level to drive a concern, however the risk of that hazard being dangerous is often exagerrated for effect. To use the example of the cancer cell line effects… doing studies in immortalised cell lines and extrapolating the identified hazardous effect to state a risk of causing cancer is a bit of a stretch in my book. There are many connections missing between cause and effect - it does highlight a potential “risk” but cannot quantify the hazard. The general public are then left with an unquantifiable risk which they percieve as a hazard and stop drinking Californian wine because it contains minute levels (less than 1 part per billion) of a herbicide.

There is, without doubt, a far far more hazardous chemical present in Californian wine that has extremely well understood and quantifiable effects, and carries significant risk of causing neurological effects, liver failure and cancer amongst others, and is well documented as drug causing dependency. This chemical is often present in wine at levels of 15,000,000 parts per billion.

With both hazards identified, one has to calculate the relative risk and makes one’s own choices.

Cheers! :wine_glass: (Californian Zinfandel)


An excellent response by @Alchemist with which I concur.

This seems to sum up the situation that @cerberus describes concisely. Anyone who has been involved with any science that has an immediate public interest has probably had to tear their hair out at some point due to this. I particularly commend @cerberus for finding that article he linked to - where did you find that one?!! It’s quite the ripest example of its type I’ve seen on the subject. Though I have to say it’s a genre I generally pass by.


I was looking for an article regarding Glyphosate in horticultural usage re the EU wanting to ban it along with everything else they have without any real proof of effect and whilst going through an article a link came up which was this, can’t find the original article now as I only bookmarked the link.
There’s another here, sorry for the schoolboy error in the heading, now corrected !



I guess we could debate the cancer risk issue, but it might be worth pointing out first that the shock horror headline “glyphosate found in 100% of Californian wines” is almost completely irrelevant.

It’s irrelevant because modern analytical chemistry is now so sensitive, you can pretty well find the concentration of any x in y, given adequate funding - the lab standards and skills for workup and analysis at this level don’t come cheap. What would be relevant would be the levels of glyphosate actually found, and how these relate to the risks (if any) due to ingestion as a result. But that’s tediously technical and doesn’t make for eye-popping headlines.


Just to note that it was a UN study that said it was probably carcinogenic in humans, and the EU position was “The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.”
EU renewed its licence for 5 years in 2017 after a majority vote…
…so I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame this on the EU. Like many things, it’s probably misused by a minority. Many chemicals are only available to qualified users. I know that I can get a couple of things for use on our cricket ground that you can’t get in B&Q or a garden centre, but I have an end user certificate. Given I am spraying it from a back pack I am hardly likely to want to put myself at risk…


The EU backed down after intense lobbying from farm groups and the usual big companies involved in manufacturing Glysophate and they have managed to ban a whole raft of everyday products for horticultural use with the result that the replacements are not only a lot more expensive but are limited in who can buy, it is a very long list and not for explanation here, but I can assure you much, not all, was totally without foundation but to big pharmas advantage not the user.

At this moment in time there simply is no viable replacement for Glysophate thus the lobbying, and the word probably without any real scientific back up was also a very good reason not to proceed despite what certain groups alleged, they have had years to find definitive proof of this and failed.


The EU itself did not back down, certain member governments changed their mind. The problem was that the default position was that the licence expired - it wasn’t an active decision not to renew.

I agree that glyphosate if used properly appears to be pretty safe, and probably the only practical way to deal with some serious weed problems. Interestingly, it appears that it was a couple of other chemicals in the product formulation which seemed to be of greater cause for concern rather than the active ingredient.

The problem very often is operator error as with many things…


pedantic mode but “big pharma” are often the target of much ire, but in this case it’s worth noting that pharma companies discover and develop drugs for people not plants.

Another thing that may not be widely known is that the regulatory path to getting an agrochemical to the market is generally more stringent than getting a pharmaceutical to human usage. One reason for that is that not only does an agrochemical company have to study the toxicology in a number of invertabrate and vertabrate species, they also have to study the enviromental fate of the active ingredient. This is not something undertaken for chemicals for human consumption. The example of female hormones entering waterways as a consequence of the contraceptive pill is a case in point… https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29108330


Totally correct, as at the beginning when I stated there are two sides to the argument, but the lobbying groups muddy the waters on all sides and the results are not always what is wanted by either side, which is what we have now.
The EU have extended the use of Glyphosate for five years whilst they do tests with their own agencies, as this matter has been ongoing since 2002 you wonder what they were basing their assumptions on as they have had years to test themselves.

Mark, the EU did in effect back down as they or someone ? ran the clock down, and the licenses expired in certain states but the EU knew this would happen and as above they had years to sort this, so who was delaying and why , if it was Monsanto then they were not without good reason for reasons given above and they despite being pilloried by the eco brigade do as Alchemist said supply items that without would cost us and farmers an awful lot more in production costs and final food prices, something that certain groups think is OK, but you pays your money etc.

in fairness the pharmaceutical companies cannot win , the slightest mistake in testing and the world jumps on them yet without their products it would be a much poorer world.


On the subject of pedantry, there is about 150,000,000 ppb of ethanol in wine - not 15,000,000. Assuming we are not talking about good old-fashioned British billions, that is. Sorry, but it has been bothering me all day :wink:

However, I agree 100% with the point you were making.


Damn those pendantic pedants!! :rofl:

You are, of course, completely right @SteveSlatcher - well spotted, my bad!

It only strengthens the point I was making when comparing to things present at 0.1 ppb


Apologies Mark, I did not phrase that very well but I hope you got my drift.



Asymmetric risk is often forgotten - i.e. without many ‘discoveries’ over the last two hundred years we would still be living in a Hobbesian world where life was ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

In other words we wouldn’t live long enough to get many of the cancers!


I like the idea of life being ‘nasty, british and short’ (Michael Gove?), but seem to remember it being ‘brutish’ instead…


I think considering the chaos we’re witnessing at the moment, 'nasty, British and short ’ is pretty spot on…! :grimacing:


Oops…this is clearly the thread for errors both numerical and literal. While I do agree with @Inbar, I will amend in the cause of accuracy…