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The contribution of glyphosate to agriculture and potential impact of restrictions on use at the global level

The following is an abstract of a new study by Graham Brookes et al that takes a look at the environmental and economic impact on agriculture if farmers were no longer allowed to use the herbicide glyphosate. 

This study assesses the potential economic and environmental impacts that would arise if restrictions on glyphosate use resulted in the world no longer planting genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GM HT) crops.

‘First round’ impacts are the loss of farm level and aggregate impacts associated with the widespread use of GM HT crops (tolerant to glyphosate). There would be an annual loss of global farm income gains of $6.76 billion and lower levels of global soybean, corn and canola production equal to 18.6 million tonnes, 3.1 million tonnes and 1.44 million tonnes respectively. There would be an annual environmental loss associated with a net increase in the use of herbicides of 8.2 million kg of herbicide active ingredient (+1.7%), and a larger net negative environmental impact, as measured by the environmental impact quotient (EIQ11 Kovach J et al1.View all notes) indicator of a 12.4%. Also, there would be additional carbon emissions arising from increased fuel usage and decreased soil carbon sequestration, equal to the equivalent of adding 11.77 million cars to the roads.

Global welfare impacts based on these farm level impacts (identified through use of the Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model GTAP-BIO) point to global production of soybeans and rapeseed falling by 3.7% and 0.7% respectively, partially offset by increases in other oilseeds (notably palm oil).  World prices of all grains, oilseeds and sugar are expected to rise, especially soybeans (+5.4%) and rapeseed (+2%). The welfare impacts are mostly negative, with global welfare falling by $7,408 million per year. Land use changes will arise, with an additional cropping area of 762,000 ha, of which 53% derives from new land brought into cropping agriculture, including 167,000 of deforestation. These land use changes are likely to induce the generation of an additional 234,000 million kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

To read the entire study, please visit the journal GM Crops and Food