Thus far there is no chemical alternative to Glyphosate, Bruno Schiffers, head of the Phytopharmacy Lab at the University of Liege’s Gembloux Agro-Bio-Tech Faculty, said on Tuesday. The solution is not to look for a replacement for the controversial herbicide, but to use other agricultural techniques, the agronomist explained.
Glyphosate is an active substance used in herbicides that “has unique properties, is low-cost and remarkably effective, which has led to its success,” Schiffers stresses.
European Union (EU) member countries on Monday renewed the product’s license for five years.
Like Schiffers, Michel De Proft, Scientific Director of the Plant Protection Unit of the Centre wallon de recherches agronomiques (C-RAW, Walloon Centre for Agronomical Research), feels that it’s not about replacing Glyphosate with another chemical. “An alternative product with the same properties and without the flaws of Glyphosate does not exist,” he explains. “It’s a unique molecule” that enables you “to free up land quickly for replanting” and “to save harvests during very difficult times”.
For Schiffers, the answer is to use other farming techniques. He says Belgium can do without the weedicide “because it’s not a strategic product”. Using Glyphosate is more a matter of convenience, he says, explaining that very often, other techniques could be used, but they would be more expensive.
De Proft agrees. To farm without Glyphosate, he says “the entire system of farming and management, especially of weeds, would have to change”. It would mean going back to ploughing, which has been criticized because it uses up energy and disturbs the soil. Farming without Glyphosate is possible; “it was done for centuries, but it will be harder and more uncertain,” De Proft concludes.