European Union wanders if its going to allow glyphosate to be used inside its frontiers...

from the Guardian: If no new arrangement is found then the licence for glyphosate, a core ingredient in Monsanto’s $5bn-a-year Roundup brand, will expire at the end of June.

Here I read that the European Parliament adopted a resolution strongly opposing the Commission's proposal to reapprove the weedkiller glyphosate for use in Europe for 15 years.

This question is hugely controversial and there is so much money at stake! But if this product is discussed, it's must be based on some real ground that it's dangerous to use it.

You may guess where I want to go with this. But is there really a positive impact on the life and gardens of the many to use dangerous chemicals? Of course the very few benefit from it, and it could be very useful in some cases to uses powerful chemicals to feed us if we don't have any other choice.

My question relates only to small Sunday Gardeners. Do we benefit in the end with the use of chemicals in our gardens? Or shall we only grow what grows easily? If mushrooms or Aegopodium podagraria grow easier than rose in my garden, then what?

  • 1
    I only use it for poison ivy. Life's too short to get hemmed up by that.
    – gorav
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 0:41
  • Meta discussion about the tags here:meta.gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/739/…
    – Niall C.
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 0:47
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    Long term studies are starting to show that glyphosphate doesn't quite break down as completely as we've been led to believe. Which means reduce to what's necessary. None of this stuff is a panacea. Commented May 16, 2016 at 4:14
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    Opposition to glyphosate is likely a proxy for opposition to "Big-Ag", their practices, and/or "roundup-ready" GM-crops. In the States, demand for sugar from beets has been declining because most sugar beet crops have been made glyphosate-resistant. The farmers prefer said crops because they require far less frequent treatment with herbicides, most of which are much more toxic than glyphosate. But at least your Hershey bar will be "GMO-free".
    – Nick T
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 10:31

3 Answers 3


I'll chip in my contribution here anyway, despite an answer being accepted, J. Chomel.

Roundup is a big issue - I haven't used it for 8 years once I found out its worse than glyphosate on its own, because of the other additives contained within it making it, in theory, 'more effective' but also far more toxic. In the early days, Roundup was marketed as 'bio degradable within 7 days' a claim which appeared on the label of the product. This had to be removed from the advertising and packaging within two years of its appearance, because it turned out not to be true at all. I have used glyphosate concentrate occasionally, in particular as a treatment on ground elder, once or twice, after which it gets dug out, so no further use of the product is required. Even though I've been a professional gardener, I've had the same bottle of glyphosate concentrate for eight years, since stopping using Roundup, and it's only a 500ml bottle.

What's not clear to me from what I've read so far is whether the EU is particularly concerned about Roundup, or glyphosate in particular, everything I've seen so far appears to be conflating the two products, or mentioning one and the other as if they are interchangeable when they are not, and that I will do more research on for my own interest.

Most good gardeners I have known only use pesticides and herbicides when its essential, and then only sparingly, particularly in the UK. The problem with ordinary home gardening is the people who are not really gardeners, and who believe general routine applications of various chemicals is the way to go and will save them time, not really wanting to become 'gardeners' as such. Or worse, ignorance causing them to use more toxic substances in the false belief they are somehow less toxic than a bottle of chemical stuff - petrol, deisel, bleach or salt, for instance, which whilst they may represent no threat to the human using it, will poison the soil for quite some time.

However, all of this pales into insignificance when you look at agriculture - the biggest users of Roundup are agricultural crop growers, and particularly those who are growing GM crops (luckily for us, not in the UK, yet). Monsanto particularly created GM crops resistant to glyphosate, meaning growers could broadcast glyphosate on the crops on a regular basis, thereby killing the weeds but not the crop. This seems to me to involve questionable ethics, but this is probably not the place to have that conversation. And this agricultural use of glyphosate/roundup on a wide scale is why the EU is looking at not extending the licence for Roundup in particular, rather than home gardeners spraying the weeds occasionally. It will inevitably have a knock on effect on home gardeners, but here, there's nothing unusual about that, many weedkillers and fungicides particularly have been withdrawn - now, there is currently no effective chemical fungicide available to amateur gardeners in the UK, although I do not believe that is true in the USA, where pre-emergent weedkillers are still in use, along with some fungicides we can no longer use here. As a result of that, there has been a consequent growth in knowledge re the 'organic' method of dealing with fungal infection - milk treatments for both powdery mildew and black spot, for instance. Peat is now not available here and hasn't been for some years, and is restricted to a minimal percentage in commercial potting composts; that came about for the same reasons - use by agriculture and horticultural businesses rather than home users being the major problem. As far as I can tell, peat appears to be still freely available in the USA.

There are, clearly, times when a herbicide has to be used, on pernicious and persistent weeds - eradicating ground elder is next to impossible without use of a herbicide at some stage in the proceedings, but whether that herbicide has to be glyphosate is another matter - it doesn't, really, other herbicides are available, but glyphosate (as Roundup) was well marketed by Monsanto and has become the obvious and most well known choice for the average gardener, and the most freely available. I personally would applaud its withdrawal, but technically, it won't be a withdrawal - it will be a refusal to relicence the product for use within the EU, which means it will, presumably, still be freely available in the USA and other parts of the world.

To come back to the last sentence of your question, its a definite that Aegopodium will grow more easily than roses, and not only will it grow, it will spread as far and wide as it is able to without meeting a large, physical obstruction, or severely inhospitable conditions. If we want to cultivate certain plants in our gardens, then weeds do have to be dealt with; many can be hoed out or dug out or simply pulled out by hand, weed fabric and mulches will help, but Aegopodium, along with one or two other pernicious weeds, will require some chemical intervention along with the more traditional approach of digging out. Education and knowledge is key, because certain chemical treatments will always be required; knowing how much you need and exactly when, using whatever it is judiciously and rarely, rather than expecting to be able to manage certain things on a wing and prayer, or with a pile of mulch or many other 'alternative' methods isn't going to work for those rare occasions. To put it in perspective, if you have a cold, you don't need antibiotics, you need TLC - but if the cold develops into a serious pnuemonia, you probably do need antibiotics, even though the treatment will kill both good and bad bacteria in the body. There's always a price for everything, and the same principle applies in gardening.

  • Hopefully, it'll be as clear an argument to everyone else, in other words, don't use any chemical garden product unless you absolutely have to (including what goes in your body, actually!)
    – Bamboo
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 16:00
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    What I've said here seems to be controversial, or unpopular - there've been plus votes and minus votes going on! Not that it makes any difference, I stand by it all just the same.
    – Bamboo
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 17:49
  • I wouldn't add glyphosate to my garden. While WHO studies show that the cancer risks are lower than coffee or bacon. It is not absorbed by our bodies and will eventually go through them. My concern is the effects of it on our intestinal flora which can be killed off. I haven't found any studies on this. All commercial livestock and crops have levels of glyphosate so we get it, but I wouldn't add any more to my system. Roundup doesn't wash away, remnants of it bind to the soil and eventually break down so it could remain in the garden then to your plate. Sorry I know a little off topic. Commented May 19, 2016 at 13:14
  • @CharlesByrne - don't get me started on Roundup - but today I've been researching glyphosate (including roundup) residues in wheat flour and oats - its a terrifying picture even in the UK, never mind the States. I am not comforted by DEFRA stating the residue levels are safe - they said there was nothing wrong with beef when BSE started, so no one's convinced by these 'official' statements. I'm switching to organic bread and oats immediately. Last time I used glyphosate in someone's garden was 4 years ago (no edible plants in it) - as I said, very restricted use on my part.
    – Bamboo
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 13:57
  • @Bamboo - I'm not in the know, but everything would seem to indicate that a lot more independent research is needed (that isn't happening) of how endemic the levels of glyphosate are in our bodies which could be killing those beneficial organisms that aid in digestion and nutritional absorption. I don't suffer from gluten issues. It is in a lot of things, but I try to limit my wheat intake for other reasons (I wasn't aware of oatmeal, but it makes sense it would be affected as well). It should be a warning to all to start their own gardens & grow some of their own foods and/or buy organic. Commented May 19, 2016 at 17:40

Glyphosate is a blanket herbicide. It's not used in gardens.

Weeds are controlled in gardens by proper tilling (very little), mulching (carbon for walkways, compost near plants), and pulling.

No one with a lick of sense uses glyphosate anywhere near their roses. http://www.denverrosesociety.org/education/murder_by_roundup.pdf And the preparation for glyphosate to be used in vegetable gardens is so extensive, one could learn how to keep even a large garden relatively weed free without weed killer in half the time.

If you see Goutweed growing in your rose garden, remove its root, identify how it got through your anti-weed measures, and carry on. Mushrooms? Squash with your bootheel, stop overwatering your rose garden, and carry on.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-herbicide in any way. I've had invasions of Grapevine, Trumpet Creeper, Virginia Creeper, and Ivy that all took less than a year to obliterate with undiluted triclopyr, a foam brush, sandwich bags, and zip ties. If I'd tried pulling them, I'd be doing it several hours a year for the rest of my life.

But even the use of triclopyr was targeted. Cut-stump method on larger roots, baggied and zip tied the applications so there would be no runoff to healthy nearby trees.

It's not a question of whether or not weeds will grow easier in your garden than the things you want - they will. But there are ways to make weed control easier.

1) Most people over-till their soil. There's no reason to till the whole thing. The only thing that accomplishes is giving weeds a great environment between your wanted plants. Hoe the 4 inches around your plants weekly and that's it.

2) Mulch. Toss down all manner of mulch between rows. For my perennials, I use shredded cedar. It's cheap, resistant to pests, looks fantastic and natural. In my veggie gardens, I use shredded leaves from my "I'm waiting for greens" pile next to my compost pile. Pests that eat dead plant matter, for the most part, aren't going after the living plant matter. The leaves aren't tilled into the soil so there's no nitrogen robbing during decomposition, and at the end of the season I can mix composted manure (cheap and N heavy" with the leaves for some in-garden composting over the winter months.

The area just around the plants gets fresh compost. Any weed root will have to compete with an established plant's, and any growing weed with the shade from the established plant.

If weeds get through, yank 'em.

A sunday gardener shouldn't be thinking about chemicals unless its pesticides for a specific pest they're having trouble with. They should never be thinking about herbicides unless its for sidewalk cracks or an invasive plant elsewhere in their yard (an invasive won't get a foothold in a garden with even basic attention paid to it).

From experience, I can attest that herbicide isn't even something someone with a half-acre garden should ever have to worry about if they know how to garden.

I'm getting very long-winded because I don't want to come off harsh to anyone reading, but I guess the brutal truth of it is: if you have substantial weed problems in your garden, you need to learn how to garden. The problem isn't that you're not using the right chemicals, it's that you lack basic gardening knowledge. Which is fine - no one comes out of the womb knowing these things. Google, youtube, stack exchange, and about a million blogs are here for you. It's a skill - it requires knowledge, practice, and failure to develop.

  • Cut-Stump method works wonders on blackberries. Otherwise you have a couple years of grubbing out roots. Commented May 16, 2016 at 4:12
  • Buying a hoe is a good first step towards better gardening. Commented May 16, 2016 at 13:10
  • I do have a patch of Black Raspberries that's getting a teeny bit too big for its britches (I've kept it around b/c they're delicious). Maybe next year I'll add it to my "invasions repelled" list with cut-stumping. Commented May 17, 2016 at 16:13

Using blanket herbicides disturbs the billions of bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the soil, and although they might kill the weed in question, they deplete the soil of the biological diversity and resilience needed to fight other pests and infections.

The same is seen when the human biome is disturbed by broad spectrum antibiotics, we can get pathogenic overgrowth of such bugs as Clostridium difficile, and when the gut recovers, there is less diversity present.

Soil fungi etc produce antibiotics all the time to resist bacterial invasion, and herbicides also upset the fungal populations so that your plants are then liable to get other problems. Glycosphate is also said to persist up to 2 years in soil adsorbed to clay particles, and can also affect micronutrient availability.

So, for the long term you're better off not using broad spectrum herbicides, and instead emulate how nature controls weeds.

  • I like this: emulate how nature controls weeds! Kind of a geek word...
    – J. Chomel
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 13:33

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