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Are Glyphosate Herbicides Safe?

KJ Staff
KJ Staff

The Government of Andhra Pradesh recently issued the notification by  the  Special Commissioner of Agriculture, A.P., Guntur, submitted that due to injudicious use of herbicides particularly in non-selective herbicides like Glyphosate in Agricultural and Horticultural ecosystems leads to serious implications in many cultivated crops in Andhra Pradesh. In addition, there is a necessity to conserve fresh water aquaculture with sustainability of the same without losing any exportable production. In the above circumstances the special Commissioner of Agriculture, A.P., Guntur requested the Government to issue necessary orders for restrictive usage of herbicides in Agriculture and Horticultural ecosystems to curb the menace of excessive & unapproved use of herbicides in the State of Andhra Pradesh. 2. The Government after careful examination, hereby issue orders on the following: A. Herbicides like Glyphosate 20.2% SL IPA salt, Glyphosate 41% SL IPA Salt, Glyphosate 54% SL (IPA Salt), Glyphosate Ammonium Salt 5% SL and Glyphosate 71% SG (Ammonium Salt) should not be used in any of the crops during the crop growth season as there is no approval for any of the above Glyphosate formulations from Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee (CIB & RC), Government of India. Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee approval is mandatory to recommend/ procure/ store/ use any Agro chemical, as per the Insecticide Act, 1968. B. Farmers are permitted to use above herbicides in non cropped areas or during the non crop growth period only with the specific recommendations by authorized personnel. Farmers should apply any herbicide at recommended doses duly ensuring the approval from Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee (CIB & RC), Government of India, so as to ensure minimal exposure to humans and domestic animals including other Non Target Organisms (NTOs). C. All the retailers in Andhra Pradesh should sell only the recommended quantity of herbicide to be used during non – crop growth season in non cropped areas. Farmers should be discouraged towards cultivation of un-approved Herbicides Tolerant Crop varieties to prevent the excess usage of particular non selective herbicides like Glyphosate is illegal in any cropped area and also during crop growth season.

The agrochemical lobby often claims that glyphosate has low toxicity to animals, including humans. The “Glyphosate Facts” website of the Glyphosate Task Force, a group of chemical companies that manufacture and sell glyphosate herbicides, claims that “numerous health assessments conducted by public authorities over the past 40 years have consistently concluded that glyphosate does not pose any unacceptable risk to human health.”

But this claim is misleading. The “health assessments” are indeed conducted by public authorities, but these agencies only assess industry studies, commissioned or carried out by the very same companies that are applying to gain regulatory authorization for their products.

Ms Katarina Zimmer writes in the Scientist that  Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s most widely used herbicide, Roundup, is arguably also one of the most contentious. Farmers have relied upon glyphosate-based herbicides to kill unwanted vegetation for more than four decades, but its use sparked hefty debate in 2015, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that it was “probably carcinogenic,” adding it to a category that also contains red meat, for instance. This followed previous conclusions by research agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer risk to humans.

Glyphosate is a small compound that has been sold as the active ingredient in herbicide formulations since 1974. It is marketed as having no effect in animals because it is designed to specifically inhibit an enzymatic pathway required for protein synthesis—and thereby, growth—unique to plants.

Over the years, regulatory agencies have evaluated its potential effects on non-target organisms. However, recent assessments seem to be focused on carcinogenicity and genotoxicity of glyphosate, notes Deborah Kurrasch, a neuroscientist at the University of Calgary. 

Glyphosate is rarely used on its own in the field. Herbicide formulations as a whole include a variety of other chemicals, such as surfactants to help glyphosate enter plant cells and other additives that extend the product’s shelf life.

A problem for scientists investigating the physiological activities of pesticides is that herbicide-producing giants including Monsanto, Roundup’s developer, or Syngenta, which produces the glyphosate-containing herbicide Touchdown, aren’t required to make their full ingredients lists public.

Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of  Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) highlighted the study published on 9th March 2018. 

We know that in India Glyphosate is the largest-selling herbicide. It is used in un-permitted/illegal ways and is spurred by illegal HT cotton cultivation too (Maharashtra Government is supposed to have set up a Committee to look into such HT cotton cultivation and I don't know what happened subsequently).

Andhra Pradesh is the only state which has placed some restrictions on the sale and use of this herbicide. Attaching the AP GO in case it is useful. FYI, and coverage if possible.

Incidentally, there has been one study in 2010 with Indian scientists involved, on glyphosate and cancer-causing potential: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20045496 



The Study conclusion is the first study of GLY exposure in US pregnant women using urine specimens as a direct measure of exposure. We found that > 90% of pregnant women had detectable GLY levels and that these levels correlated significantly with shortened pregnancy lengths. Although our study cohort was small and regional and had limited racial/ethnic diversity, it provides direct evidence of maternal GLY exposure and a significant correlation with shortened pregnancy. Further investigations in a more geographically and racially diverse cohort would be necessary before these findings could be generalized.

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