Luxembourg, one of the smallest countries in Europe, as of the first of the year, completely banned glyphosate, the controversial main active herbicide in the Roundup weed and grass killer product line, and several other brands.
The territory, which is the world’s only independent country ruled by a duke, first made plans to ban glyphosate in 2018. Although the territory is relatively tiny–44th in size out of 51 European countries–perhaps many world governments will be watching the grand duchy, to see how the country balances taking action favored by the masses with agricultural reality. Public opinion in Luxembourg favored the ban, however, what is less apparent is how the country’s economy will fare now that the ban is in effect.
The country’s main agricultural union–Centrale paysanne luxembourgeoise (CPL)–laments the dearth of alternatives to glyphosate, which was created by the Monsanto Corporation. Monsanto was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant, Bayer AG in 2018, for a sum of $63 million.
In the absence of alternatives to the world’s most ubiquitous herbicide, some Luxembourger farmers fear they will have to revert back to more labor-intensive mechanical weeding, which will reduce output. (In the U.S., glyphosate is also registered as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency.)
Despite the concern of farmers and a lack of consensus for glyphosate alternatives, the majority of farmers in the country will comply with the ban.
According to one website that covers news from the country, 60% of the country’s farms had already voluntarily stopped using glyphosate by the time the ban went into effect. Since 2019, the grand duchy has been compensating farmers that have stopped using the synthetic herbicide. The country’s neighbor, France, recently announced it would start doing the same for its farmers that swear to stop using glyphosate, which was recently blamed in an EPA draft report to cause harm to many endangered plant and animal species.
Opponents of the ban maintain that using glyphosate, besides curbing the overgrowth of weeds, helps prevent soil overturning, which releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Agricultural interests such as the CPL also claim that glyphosate is needed to maintain the country’s railroad tracks. Failure to curb weed growth would retain water and deform the rails.
Glyphosate’s license in Europe expires at the end of 2022. Several countries are debating its future. Austria was supposed to have been the first country in Europe to ban glyphosate, however, due to a technicality, the caretaker government has delayed the ban. Several EU member countries have imposed restrictions, but none thus far have begun to implement outright bans.