Herbicide tolerance and GM crops

Why the world should be Ready to Round Up glyphosate

Publication - 30 June, 2011
The widespread and increasingly intensive use of glyphosate in association with the use of GM (genetically modified) crops poses further risks to the environment and human health.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides sold throughout the world, including the well-known formulation, Roundup. Glyphosate-based herbicides are used widely for weed control because they are non-selective; glyphosate kills all vegetation.

GM crops specifically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate are known as 'Roundup Ready' (RR). These RR varieties allow farmers to spray the herbicide over the top of the growing crop, killing virtually all weeds without affecting the crop. The use of glyphosate on GM RR crops such as soy, maize and cotton has increased dramatically in North and South America, where they are predominantly grown.

GM crops are marketed by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto, and are associated with its own formulation of glyphosate herbicide, Roundup. Monsanto's sales pitch to farmers promised, and still does, reduced labour and financial savings by simplifying and reducing the costs of weed control. The reality is turning out to be different, with increasing health, biodiversity and environmental concerns and the development of weed resistance.

Given the problems that are now evident, no new GM glyphosate-tolerant crops should be authorised. In broader terms, GM herbicide-tolerant crops have been developed for an industrial farming model. They are therefore intrinsically linked to unsustainable farming practices that damage the basic natural resources food production is based upon, and their cultivation should be banned.

This report, produced by Greenpeace together with GM Freeze, shows why rigorous assessment of the safety of glyphosate to plant, humans and animals is of great importance, and why an urgent reassessment of the health impacts of glyphosate and its related products must now take place.

Herbicide Tolerance in GM Crops