Too often, science and facts fall victim to fear mongering and emotion. Recently, we have seen an uptick in false narratives around wheat growers’ use of the herbicide glyphosate. The reality is that glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicide brands, including Roundup herbicide, is one of the most effective tools to combat weeds prior to planting or after wheat is harvested.
While there are many claims about glyphosate, the tillage replacement tool has more than a 40-year history of safe use. Further, despite comments by ill-informed interest groups, farmers do not “douse” their crops with glyphosate just prior to harvest or in any application. Like all pesticides, glyphosate works best when used precisely and correctly, and it’s against the law to use it in a manner that is contrary to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved label. Farmers participate in training on how to follow the requirements of EPA labels and don’t want to use any more than they need, because the products are costly and take time to apply.
Glyphosate has been a breakthrough for agriculture, and this includes wheat production. Not only do glyphosate products control weeds, but they also help farmers farm the land sustainably. It is a safe and effective product, allowing farmers to manage their crops without bringing risk to themselves, their families, their workers and the environment.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has deemed glyphosate to be more environmentally friendly than alternative tillage methods and cropping systems using higher-risk herbicide products. It has become a very effective and useful tool for protecting soil erosion, fertility and water quality. It has led to an increase of growers incorporating no-till farming practices into their operations.
To be clear, no-till is an agricultural technique that does not disturb the soil and leaves the previous crop residue on the soil surface. This has been shown to increase the amount of water that infiltrates the soil, thereby reducing water runoff and soil erosion and sequestering carbon. The most powerful benefit of no-till is improvement in soil biological health, making soils more resilient and sustainable for continued crop production. Despite what you might read or hear, glyphosate only hurts the weeds.
Glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides are among the most rigorously studied products of their kind. Hundreds of studies have been submitted to the U.S. EPA, the European Food Safety Authority, and other regulatory agencies around the world as required with the registration process, and all have confirmed that this product is safe for use as labeled. As a result of these rigorous registration studies proving its safety, glyphosate is approved for use in more than 160 countries.
Recently, the herbicide received further corroboration of its safety, though this news doesn’t always make the headlines. In 2018, the U.S. EPA convened its own panel to review glyphosate and concluded that “it is not likely to be carcinogenic in humans.” Glyphosate, given its effectiveness and broad adaptation in production agriculture, is justifiably one of the most studied and closely monitored herbicides in the world.
The U.S. food supply is safe, and glyphosate is a critical component in keeping it that way. To meet the demands of a growing world population, farmers need access to all available technology and products that enable them to improve pest management and provide an abundant, safe, high-quality food supply. Only glyphosate provides farmers the unique combination of efficacy and environmental friendliness needed to tackle world hunger. The mechanical tillage that farmers would be required to implement without glyphosate would result in higher costs, environmental and soil degradation, and likely a less safe herbicide applied in the first place. Careening toward this result, as we are currently doing, should not be an option when so much is at stake.
Ben Scholz is president of the National Association of Wheat Growers and a Lavon, Texas, wheat farmer.
Source: Capital Press