September 26, 2023

A grim future awaits American agriculture if glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is no longer available to growers, a new report commissioned by Bayer concludes.

The Aimpoint Research report uses “military wargaming techniques,” among other methods, to find that a world without glyphosate would force farmers to turn to alternative chemistries and adjust their practices, but “at a substantial cost to [them] and the environment.”

“The loss of glyphosate would not be trivial,” the report says.

The report says that growers would face “increased input and operating costs, with small farmers disproportionately affected. Further analysis reveals a cascading chain of likely higher order effects and unintended consequences, the most impactful being the rapid release of additional greenhouse gases and the reversal of decades of conservation and sustainability gains.”

The report compiles and quantifies a list of adverse impacts that Bayer has been predicting if glyphosate is not registered for use, including an increase in tillage to control weeds and more burning of fuel for equipment. It also says food prices would increase and U.S. competitiveness would be threatened.

“Increasing tillage would raise production costs by over $1.9 billion,” Aimpoint says in a news release accompanying the report.

The report noted that reducing tillage would increase the carbon score of ethanol and biomass-based diesel, which could potentially limit market opportunities. 

A Bayer spokesperson said the report was produced independently of the company, but also said, “We look for every opportunity to illustrate the importance of this tool across our agriculture system. This report adds powerful additional data and insights to support that conclusion.”

EPA expects to finish its registration review on the chemical by 2026. The agency withdrew the human health portion of its 2020 glyphosate interim decision in September after that section was vacated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2022.

At that time, the court also remanded, but did not vacate, the agency’s ecological risk assessment after finding that the interim decision should have included an “effects determination” detailing impacts on threatened and endangered species.

Aimpoint’s report finds that adaptation would cost dearly.

“More alternatives would eventually be available over time but would take several years and significant investment – investment that would likely be slowed by regulatory uncertainty and a vacuum in crop protection innovation,” the release says. 

Taking aim at opponents, the report says, “Glyphosate remains the target of several advocacy groups seeking to restrict or prevent its use through state and federal policy influence. State-by-state action could establish barriers to the use of glyphosate and a complex patchwork of regulations creating a serious practical threat to its manufacture and distribution.”

“Various states have considered bans or restrictions on glyphosate, including New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont,” the report says. “The web-based platform which originates and circulates various policy and other petitions, has targeted a glyphosate ban petition at every state in the U.S

Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety representing the plaintiffs in the glyphosate litigation, said in a statement that “a report paid for by Bayer, the company that bought Monsanto, whose biggest book of business is the Roundup-Ready crop system, is not an independent trustworthy source of information on a future without glyphosate.”

“To the contrary, public research and experts agree that the only way to keep growing food sustainably into the future and stop the destruction of the same ecological systems we rely upon is to expand ecological farming, with organic being the starting point or floor. The world doesn’t need glyphosate, Bayer’s shareholders do.”

Bayer said that while it did commission the report, the company “had no insight into the study until it had been completed and the report was finalized. All conclusions contained in the report are the authors’ and contributors’, alone. Bayer had no editorial control.”

“It’s a top priority for Bayer to maintain farmers’ continued access to glyphosate as a critical crop protection tool so they can produce high yields and maintain an abundant food supply,” the spokesperson said. 

The report notes that “increasing weed resistance to glyphosate is acknowledged by farmers as an ongoing concern,” and that “producers report greater use of tank mixes with multiple modes of action. However, most mixes continue to include glyphosate, even when not relying solely on it. Thus, glyphosate remains a key tool for weed control and conservation agriculture but not at historical levels.”

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