Glyphosate Facts

Glyphosate is a herbicide used to kill many different types of weeds. It is a very common product used in both commercial and residential applications. Monsanto, the manufacturer of this substance, claims it is the world’s best-selling herbicide. Over time, high use can result in a buildup of the chemical in the soil.

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum, non-selective herbicide, and is effective in killing all plant types, including grasses, perennials and woody plants. Because it gets absorbed into the plant mainly through its leaves, and also through its soft stalk tissue, the entire plant will be affected. It travels through the plant, affecting its metabolism and killing the entire plant slowly. Once sprayed, plants display stunted growth, loss of green coloration, leaf wrinkling or malformation and finally, tissue death.

Crops with genetically engineered resistance to glyphosate are being developed so that weeds can be controlled in fields where the crops are growing without harming the crops. However, there’s also concern that the genes that display the resistance may be transferred to non-crop species including weeds. Weed experts are concerned that some weeds such as rye grass are becoming resistant to glyphosate-containing herbicides, rendering conventional chemical farming practices useless.

There are different schools of thought on whether glyphosate leaches into soil, and what that means to plants. Some researchers report that there is little danger when it is absorbed into soil because it dissipates. Others disagree.

Over time, so much chemical could accumulate in the soil that the soil could become toxic to anything that people want to seed in it. This is put forward as a possibility due to the ever increasing use of the herbicide when spraying genetically engineered crops that are designed to become glyphosate(C3H8NO5P, CAS No. 1071-83-6) resistant. With the crops resisting the spray, more of it can be used to attack the weeds, which results in a larger buildup in the soil.

The higher the concentrations of the chemical, the longer it will have a chance to last long enough to be washed into the water supply. The quality of the soil also affects the risk of water contamination. The coarser the soil material, the higher the risk that high levels of glyphosate in soil will eventually travel into the ground water supply.