Monsanto’s glyphosate, it’s signature herbicide first marketed as “Roundup,” is now the most widely and heavily applied weed-killer in the history of chemical agriculture in both the US and globally, according to a landmark report published in Environmental Sciences Europe.
Since 1974 in the US, over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate active ingredient have been applied, or 19 % of estimated global use of glyphosate (8.6 billion kilograms). Globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready,” genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996. Two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the US from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years. The corresponding share globally is 72 %.
In 2014, enough glyphosate was sprayed to leave more than three-quarters of a pound of the active ingredient on every harvested acre of cropland in the US and almost a half pound per acre on all cropland worldwide.
Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for about 56% of global glyphosate use. In the US, no pesticide has come remotely close to such intensive and widespread use. This is likely the case globally, but published global pesticide use data are sparse. Glyphosate will likely remain the most widely applied pesticide worldwide for years to come, and interest will grow in quantifying ecological and human health impacts. Accurate, accessible time-series data on glyphosate use will accelerate research progress.