Glyphosate in farming and landscaping
Glyphosate is one of the best-selling and most debated pesticides in the world. For over 40 years, it has been used worldwide in agriculture and gardening as an herbicide in order to combat the growth of weeds among cultivated crops. In Germany and the European Union (EU), glyphosate is currently approved up until December 15th, 2022 as an active ingredient for herbicides combatting weeds.
Glyphosate is absorbed in the green parts of the plant (leaves and above-ground sprouts) and spread throughout the entire plant. That’s why it is referred to as a “systemic” pesticide. Because it acts systemically, the active agent can also reach the underground parts of the plant such as the roots and stolons, allowing even persistent types of weeds to be combatted. As a non-selective, sweeping herbicide, glyphosate leads to the death of all plants and therefore cannot be applied during the growth period of the cultivated plants, since it would damage them as well. Outside of the EU, crops that are genetically modified to be glyphosate resistant are planted, enabling glyphosate to be used during the growth period of the cultivated plants as well. In addition to the use of the active agent as an herbicide, glyphosate is also used in some cultivated plants, such as cereals, lentils, or beans in order to accelerate the maturation (drying out the crop in order to optimize the harvesting process).
Glyphosate is often criticized in public reporting because it can have a negative influence on the environment and has been classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), however, after evaluating all of the available studies, have come to the conclusion that no health concerns should arise from proper usage of glyphosate in accordance with the existing regulations.
If pesticides containing glyphosate are used, residues will inevitably end up in the cultivated produce as well as the food products made from it. However, the content must remain below the permissible maximum residue level if the product is to be placed on the market. The maximum levels permitted are listed in the Regulation (EC) No 396/2005. The maximum levels always refer to the combination of an active agent and culture, and also take into consideration the type of application. So far, no maximum levels have been set for the glyphosate degradation product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA).
Using an optimized LC-MS/MS method, the GBA Group can quantify glyphosate in a variety of food products down to a concentration of 0.01 mg/kg. With this method, not only glyphosate can be detected, but also its degradation product, AMPA, as well as the structurally similar herbicide glufosinate. Furthermore, this method can also be utilized for the analysis of liquid matrices, such as beer.