Just Imagine: Glyphosate use is banned in North America

A fictional look at life without glyphosate in the year 2028.

Due to pressure from consumers and decisions by the courts, glyphosate use has been banned in Canada and the U.S.

Only three years removed from the complete ban of glyphosate, North American farmers are still dealing with the changes to their farming practices.

The Canadian government passed Bill C-8, which banned what was once the world’s most commonly used herbicide in the fall of 2025, as Liberal Prime Minister Kenna McCatherine’s minority government received support from the NDP and Green Party.

In the U.S., farmers are also adjusting to federal lawmakers completing the phase out of glyphosate in 2025, with Mitchell Polland, head of the EPA, noting “farmers have never had more control over their profitability now that they are not being forced by Bayer to purchase glyphosate-resistant seeds.”

The policy changes have breathed new life into companies that manufacture tillage equipment, as farmers are re-introducing themselves to shovel and spike implements.

A tillage manufacturer’s recent social media campaign on Twitter, which encouraged farmers to post pictures of their old high clearance sprayers using the hashtag #sellthesprayer, was a real success, gathering over two million virtual impressions.

When asked about the dramatic increase of wind erosion due to a return to tillage, Polland shook it off by saying that “the prior era of mono-cropping is really to blame since farmers lost the art of multi-cropping.”

Not all equipment manufacturers have given up on spraying technology though. Google’s acquisition of Bosch Robotics has advanced the company’s position in the ag precision software and hardware space. Since farmers no longer have the ability to broadly control weeds before seeding or in-crop, robots and drones employing highly accurate lasers and water jets are becoming more main stream. In some cases, these autonomous machines are still deploying traditional herbicides, but targeted at specific plants.

In the Palliser’s Triangle of Western Canada, wind erosion has wreaked havoc with growers looking to manage weeds with tillage. Wheat Growers of Canada president Darrell Francisco notes “commodity prices just don’t justify robots for all farms in Canada, so tillage for weed control is the only feasible option.”

As predicted by soil health experts going back to the 1970s, the result of the glyphosate ban has already been severe losses of topsoil, reduced soil health, and loss of sequestered carbon, which McCatherine pledged farmers across Canada would have received carbon credits for starting in 2030.

Canola and pulse crop acres were down again this spring, with canola dropping below 15 million acres for the first time since 2006. Farmers are instead choosing to grow crops with quick growth and a competitive plant-snuffing canopy, with some turning back to traditional crops like wheat to keep things simple. Sales of seeding equipment with narrower row spacing have also increased, as farmers look to close the crop canopy faster, but in dry conditions, as we’re seeing in 2028, the plant populations must also be pulled back.

The percentage of acres dedicated to organic production has plateaued, despite federal initiatives aimed at incentivizing organic practices, as margins for organically-grown crops remain at all-time lows. The Canadian Wholesome Food Council, for several years, has attributed the diminished returns for organic farmers to the trend of increasing low-price food imports from Russia and Mexico.

Always innovative, farmers are trying to adapt to losing access to a very valuable tool for weed control, but it’s proving to be a challenge, both economically and environmentally.

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. He creates content regularly and hosts RealAg Radio on Rural Radio 147 every weekday at 4:30 PM est. @shaunhaney

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One Comment

J.Garlough

Shaun, THANK YOU for writing this fantastic article! I agree that sh*t would hit the proverbial fan if glyphosate was banned in North America so quickly and I have yet to see a better example demonstrating how capitalism works.

Capitalism is so very efficient at generating profits with no regard for farmers or farm families. In fact, as your example so elegantly points out it actually creates a market opportunity — farm families who are smart enough to move our investments into Google before they acquire Bosch Robotics will be sitting pretty and won’t have to worry about where we get our next meal. Governments and Venture Capital firms will be investing money in new innovations, chemical companies & technologies hand-over-food in a desperate attempt to re-build the food supply and the lucky few Canadian farmers not part of Canada’s current rising farm debt issue can jump on the investment bandwagon and live off the dividends. Feeding their families won’t be much as a problem as I agree that low cost food will continue to stream in from Mexico and the only change might be a few more ‘product of Russia’ & ‘product of China’ labels in the grocery store on the familiar brands we grew up with.

Meanwhile, who will be bailing out the struggling farmers who are not so fortunate and cleaning up the environmental degradation that you rightly point out will occur if even just ONE chemical is banned in North America in such short order? History shows us it will be the government & taxpayer. History also shows that a few people and districts will sue the corporations to try to recoup some of the costs however, Bayer is certainly ‘too big to fail’ so I feel it would be crazy for us to let it fail and probably smarter to give it a government handout so they can continue to innovate and help us get out of this mess.

Unfortunately for Ontario farmers, however, they won’t get any bailouts or income for a growing season or two so they try to adapt, adjust or innovate new farming practices. Instead the provincial government they recently elected will have some great job training programs so they can quickly get retrained and get a job in the city.

Our Canadian Farmer’s dependency on a handful of trademarked inputs did not happen overnight and likely started with just one single seed. If groups like Food Secure Canada & USC Canada had their way much of the push this past decade would have been towards changing the power imbalances within the system and empowering family farmers to earn a living off the land while slowly reduce their dependency on so many corporate inputs at one end and so few processors/markets at the other end. Instead it seems the focus of the majority of Canadian farmers, governments and industry has been on fighting tooth and nail for the public’s trust in a food system so fragile that just one politically motivated chemical ban would result in unprecedented environmental harm and the collapse of what few farms are left in our great nation.

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