Subtle Effects of Herbicide Use in the Context of Genetically Modified Crops: A Case Study With Glyphosate (Roundup)

Ecotoxicology. Feb-Aug 2003;12(1-4):271-85. doi: 10.1023/a:1022515129526.


Research on the effects of glyphosate and seed germination spans 30 years. Despite several studies reporting detrimental effects of the herbicide on seedling germination and growth, glyphosate is still being registered for use as a weed killer and preharvest desiccant. Its nonselective nature and low chance of species developing resistance has lead to the development of genetically modified crops tolerant to the herbicide which also raises concerns about increased reliance on herbicide use, and subtle ecological impact. This paper presents the result of a literature review on past studies mostly, on crop species, and the results of a new experiment performed with emphasis on noncrop species. The new experimental part attempted to determine whether glyphosate (Roundup) would have an effect on the germination and growth of the F1 generation of seeds produced by plants sprayed with the herbicide. It was designed to mirror spray drift which might affect noncrop plants in nontarget drift zones. Of the 11 species tested using treatments of 0% (control), 1%, 10% or 100% of a 890 g a.i./ha label rate solution sprayed near seed maturity, seven showed a significant effect of the glyphosate treatment on germination and/or growth characteristics. Results of this experiment together with several previous studies reviewed in this paper suggest that there are significant effects to keep in mind when using herbicides such as glyphosate as severe ecological changes could occur.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Germination / drug effects*
  • Germination / physiology
  • Glycine / adverse effects*
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Herbicides / adverse effects*
  • Pest Control
  • Plants, Edible*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / physiology*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Seeds / drug effects
  • Seeds / physiology


  • Herbicides
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine