Glyphosate is an organic chemical compound from the phosphonate group, which is the active ingredient in some non-selective herbicides. It is widely sprayed on agricultural crops and enters the soil and surface water mainly through rain runoff. Glyphosate is approved for use in more than 100 countries. There has been a long-running discussion in the EU about extending the approval for the use of glyphosate, which expires on December 15, 2023. Despite the impending expiration of the permit, there are no decisions.
Glyphosate in the European Union
Doubts about the safety of glyphosate and its consequences for human health are becoming increasingly controversial. The assessment of the measure’s impact on human, animal and environmental health was handled by the European Food Safety Authority. In an assessment announced on July 26, 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said. concluded that “based on the studies collected, no critical areas of concern have been identified regarding the effects of this substance on human, animal and environmental health.”
The European Commission, after analyzing proposals and reports prepared by member states, has proposed extending the approval of glyphosate by 10 years. On October 13, 2023, the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) held a vote on the future of glyphosate in the EU. However, during the discussion of the proposal, the majority required for its adoption (or rejection) was not reached. A rehearing of the decision will take place in the first half of November at a meeting of the Appeals Committee. EU countries will then report whether they have changed their minds. The current authorization for glyphosate, which had been in effect for five years, was renewed in 2017, followed by a one-year extension in December 2022.
Germany, regardless of its assessment of glyphosate, has decided to ban its use. It is the first country to make such a decision. Starting in 2020. It cannot be sprayed in city parks and home gardens, and from 2024. is to be banned completely.
Glyphosate in drinking water
In the European Union, drinking water quality issues are regulated by Council Directive 98/83/EC of November 3, 1998. On the quality of water intended for human consumption. The document indicates the parameters that are important for the health safety of consumers and their safe values.
In Poland, drinking water quality issues are regulated by the Law of June 7, 2001. on collective water supply and collective sewage disposal and the Decree of the Minister of Health of December 7, 2017 issued on its basis. On the quality of water intended for human consumption. The regulation specifies, among other things. microbiological and physicochemical requirements to be met by water intended for consumption.
The Decree of the Minister of Health of December 7, 2017, in accordance with Directive 98/83/EC, indicates, among other things. permissible value ranges for pesticides (0.10 μg/l – the value applies to each individual pesticide) and the sum of pesticides (0.50 μg/l – the sum of individual pesticides detected and quantified in monitoring). The regulation notes that the term “pesticides” includes: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, nematicides, acaricides, algicides, rodenticides, slimicides, as well as related products (including growth regulators) and metabolites and their degradation and reaction products.
The regulation indicates that only those pesticides that can be expected to be found in water in a given supply zone should be labeled. The regulation does not single out glyphosate as a separate parameter to be monitored in water intended for human consumption, but neither does it exclude such testing due to the potential presence of the compound in a given water supply zone. The range of pesticides to be labeled (including, but not limited to, those containing glyphosate) is determined by the relevant state health inspector after taking into account a number of factors, including locally used pesticides.
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for drinking water quality, do not provide a recommended value for the chemical glyphosate and its main metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA). It was only indicated that they are present in drinking water in concentrations much lower than potentially hazardous to health.
The WHO stresses the low mobility of glyphosate in soil, which means minimal risk of groundwater contamination, but the compound can nevertheless enter surface or groundwater if used near aquatic environments or as a result of runoff from areas of its use on land. At the same time, the aforementioned guidelines note that the toxicity of glyphosate and its main metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), is considered low, and their typical presence in drinking water does not pose a risk to humans.
How does glyphosate work?
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide pesticide active ingredient in the world. Preparations based on this substance cause most plants to die, allowing easy and inexpensive destruction of weeds, including perennial weeds previously very difficult to eradicate.
Currently, 85 products containing this active substance are listed in the register of plant protection products authorized in Poland. Glyphosate is very widely used in agricultural crops, orchards, vegetables, meadows, pastures, also in the production of ornamental plants.
For information on herbicides and their impact on aquatic ecosystems, see a previous article:“Herbicides and their impact on aquatic ecosystems.”