A new paper published in Environmental Sciences Europe confirms there has been a dramatic increase in the total volume of glyphosate applied to crops across the world. The paper, Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally, by Charles M. Benbrook, reveals that globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready” genetically modified (GM), glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996. Over 70% of the total volume of glyphosate sprayed world-wide over the last 40 years (1974 to 2014) has been sprayed in just the last 10 years.

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association said; “This research reveals that Monsanto’s Glyphosate is now the most heavily used weed-killer in history, and use is sky-rocketing – nearly 75% of all Glyphosate ever sprayed on crops was used in the last 10 years. This huge increase in chemical spraying is what we can expect if GM crops are ever grown in England. As well as being identified as a probable human carcinogen, the research notes that recent studies have made the connection between glyphosate exposure and a number of serious health effects as well as cancer, including the degeneration of the liver and kidney, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The research rightly questions the safety of using Glyphosate on crops destined for people to eat just before they are harvested – a growing practice in the UK, which must end.”

The new figures published today come against a background of increased use in the UK. Glyphosate is used in public parks and other urban areas to kill weeds, and in the last year for which government figures are available, nearly a third of UK cereals, wheat and barley, were sprayed with Glyphosate – a total of just over one million hectares. The Soil Association is calling for a UK ban on the use of glyphosate sprayed on UK wheat as a pre-harvest weedkiller and to kill any unripe corn to speed harvests. Figures analysed by the Soil Association from government data last year revealed glyphosate use in UK farming has increased by 400% in the last 20 years.

The Soil Association also revealed glyphosate is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread – appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the Defra committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF) in recent years. Serious doubts have been cast over the claimed ‘safety’ of glyphosate. In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded ‘Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans’. 

Read the full paper here.