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Glyphosate ban in Europe: How would it have affected agriculture?

This fall, Europe faced a critical decision regarding glyphosate, the controversial herbicide extensively used in the agricultural sector. Glyphosate was re-registered, but which alternative solutions exists, and what impact would a ban have on agriculture. Researchers from among others Aarhus University have delved into the economic repercussions of a ban and strategies to minimise potential losses.

Researchers from Aarhus University have investigated the economic consequences and alternative solutions for agriculture if a ban on glyphosate were to become a reality in the future. Photo: Colourbox.com

Glyphosate, a key player in combating weeds in European agriculture, has once again triggered intense debates about its environmental and health impacts. Despite the EU recommending re-registration on November 16, some member states had already imposed restrictions or bans. This raised questions about how agriculture would have reacted and adapted in a future without this contentious agent. 

Economic consequences: From orchards to grain fields 

"We gathered knowledge from scientific literature, although it wasn't straightforward, as many studies were not available in English. We found a total of 19 studies, including one by SEGES Innovation in Denmark. The economic picture is very complex, and losses vary depending on the crop and cultivation system. We have found that a glyphosate ban can have significant economic consequences, with potential losses ranging from €3 per hectare in maize to up to €553 per hectare in viticulture," Professor Per Kudsk from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University explains. 

Perennial crops such as orchards and vineyards stand to suffer the most, while crops such as wheat and maize show minor losses. 

“But the interesting thing is that when we look at how much the farmers lose in relation to the money they earn, as a percentage of earnings it is the same for both perennial and annual crops. We found that the losses they will experience are between 1 and 11 percent of their earnings," explains Per Kudsk. 

However, not all European countries and farming systems are represented in the existing economic analyses, and this makes it difficult for the researchers to give a general conclusion about economic consequences on a European level. According to the researchers, both countries and cultivation systems that have already introduced glyphosate restrictions and those that still use glyphosate need to adapt. 

"We can see that economic adjustments and political measures are already underway in several places to counter the losses we will see from a ban," says Per Kudsk. 

It requires adaptation and innovation 

Although the review of previous economic analyses and research results gives a general picture of losses for the agricultural sector, according to the researchers, it is not possible to come up with completely accurate assessments. 

"There is simply a lack of knowledge. There are not economic analyses for all types of farming systems or for all European countries. This means that there is a need for more detailed economic analyses that focus on crop and cultivation system specific parameters. Such analyses will be able to uncover exact areas and crops that will potentially be affected by a glyphosate ban," says Per Kudsk.  

This knowledge is still important, as this is probably not the last time glyphosate will be discussed in the EU. He points out that, at the same time, cost-effective policies and measures should be developed to help minimise economic consequences and promote environmental protection and biodiversity. 

The impact of the glyphosate ban on European agriculture is complex and varies depending on many factors. According to the researchers, there is an urgent need to find a balance between economic and environmental considerations. While a glyphosate ban may have economic consequences, it also opens the door to innovation and the spread of alternatives that can promote less herbicide-dependent agricultural practices. 

"It is important to thoroughly consider the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us. European agriculture is facing a time of significant change and adaptation, where it will be crucial to find the right balance between solving the current problems and exploiting the potential benefits that may arise in the wake of a future glyphosate ban," says Per Kudsk. 


External collaborators Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, Wageningen University, and ETH Zurich
External funding Self-funded
Conflict of interest None
Link to the scientific article "Glyphosate ban will have economic impacts on European agriculture but effect ate heterogenous and uncertain" is published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment. Authored by Robert Finger, Niklas Möhring, and Per Kudsk
Contact information Professor Per Kudsk, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. Phone: +45 22283382 or Email: per.kudsk@agro.au.dk