I have been watching this issue unfold very closely over the past few months since the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report came out in March naming glyphosate, the active ingredient in the wildly popular herbicide, possibly carcinogenic to humans. In the report, which you can read in its entirety here, the chemical is described as having the “highest global production volume of all herbicides” with “the largest use world wide is in agriculture. Naturally this use includes vineyards although I would be surprised if vineyards make up even a fraction of the total world use of Roundup. I could always tell when it was Roundup season in Napa. It has a certain smell to it and I always ended up sneezing throughout the few weeks that everyone was trying to kill the weeds that were competing for the ever more scarce resource of water. Interestingly enough, just a few days ago, France’s Ecology Minister, Segolene Royal, announced a ban on the sale of Roundup in nurseries. Granted this is not a complete ban however it is a very strong step in keeping the chemical from being misused or overused in urban settings.
Photo courtesy of Dopamine Hegemony
Yup. This means in France, the poor urban gardener either has to hire someone with a license to apply it or they’ll have to get rid of weeds the old fashioned way, by weeding. This brings me back to what this could mean for the industry if there are increasingly stringent restrictions in place for this chemical. I personally am all for weeding mechanically using discs and French plows where needed however these methods are more expensive, time consuming, and yes, quite possibly less satisfying than just running a 4-wheeler through the vineyard nuking weeds completely. However, I’m sure the IARC report may make people think twice before deciding that Roundup is as harmless as we have all been thinking it is.
Then you bring in the ecological impact of this super efficient weed eradication method. Herbicides in general used on large scale farms in the US have been linked to Monarch Butterfly decline due to the loss of milkweed. I think this should be quite troubling to an industry that prides itself on being sustainable and helpful to the ecological environment.
I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the EU is going to react to the IARC report. Wild speculation is that Glyphosate could be banned entirely from both use in the EU and prevent products that have been grown using Glyphosate from importation. Should this actually happen, which, for the record, I think is a long shot, the mainstream industry would have to radically shift the thought of how to manage weeds in vineyards.
It will be interesting to see how this continues to unfold…