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Glyphosate on the farms

A wide range of major crops are managed with the use of glyphosate in Europe, including cereals, vineyards, olives, citrus fruits, nuts and Christmas trees. In some European countries, for example in the UK and Germany, farmers use glyphosate for crop management on up to 40 per cent of the total agricultural acreage.

Many online articles about glyphosate are wrongly illustrated with pictures of large-scale crop spraying. If a farmer sprayed crops with herbicides like shown instead of pesticides, the crop would die along with any weeds. The time, amount and method of application of glyphosate products vary across the EU depending on the crop and the target weed species. Though some European farmers use glyphosate before the harvest to control weeds and help crops such as oilseed rape and cereals mature more evenly, most only apply glyphosate before sowing or after the harvest to prevent weeds infesting the next season of crops. So there is little, if any, contact with food crops.

Stubble treatment, or using glyphosate to control weeds between crops rather than ploughing, is also a major plus for the environment. In no-till farming (a way of growing crops without disturbing the soil through tillage), the residues of the previous crop are left to decay into organic matter that enriches a farm’s topsoil while all the roots of the previous crop remain in the soil to help prevent soil erosion and provide nutrients for bacteria and other soil microorganisms. Avoiding ploughing or tilling also allows the soil to store more carbon while reducing CO2 emissions into the environment through lower fuel consumption (tractors aren’t known for their energy efficiency).  

People have been combatting weeds for as long as agriculture has existed. Some of them are toxic to farm animals, while others compete for light, water and soil nutrients with a farmer’s crop. In the past, children would often be found on farms during the summer, spending back-breaking days weeding by hand. Today farmers prefer to enlist the help of science and technology in the form of glyphosate instead and are not happy at all that it could be banned.  

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