The history and current status of glyphosate

Pest Manag Sci. 2018 May;74(5):1027-1034. doi: 10.1002/ps.4652. Epub 2017 Aug 11.


Glyphosate is the only herbicide to target the enzyme 5-enolpyruvyl-3-shikimate phosphate synthase (EPSPS). It is a high use rate, non-selective herbicide that translocates primarily to metabolic sinks, killing meristematic tissues away from the application site. Its phloem-mobile properties and slow action in killing weeds allow the herbicide to move throughout the plant to kill all meristems, making it effective for perennial weed control. Since commercialization in 1974, its use has grown to dominate the herbicide market. Much of its use is on transgenic, glyphosate-resistant crops (GRCs), which have been the dominant transgenic crops worldwide. GRCs with glyphosate provided the most effective and inexpensive weed management technology in history for a decade or more. However, as a consequence of the rapid increase in glyphosate-resistant (GR) weeds, the effectiveness of glyphosate use in GRCs is declining. Critics have claimed that glyphosate-treated GRCs have altered mineral nutrition and increased susceptibility to plant pathogens because of glyphosate's ability to chelate divalent metal cations, but the complete resistance of GRCs to glyphosate indicates that chelating metal cations do not contribute to the herbicidal activity or significantly affect mineral nutrition. The rates of increases in yields of maize, soybean, and cotton in the USA have been unchanged after high adoption rates of GRCs. Glyphosate is toxic to some plant pathogens, and thereby can act as a fungicide in GRCs. Ultra-low doses of glyphosate stimulate plant growth in glyphosate-susceptible plants by unknown mechanisms. Despite rapid and widespread increases in GR weeds, glyphosate use has not decreased. However, as GR weeds increase, adoption of alternative technologies will eventually lead to decreased use. Published 2017. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Keywords: 5-enolpyruvyl-3-shikimate phosphate synthase (EPSPS); glyphosate; glyphosate resistance; herbicide-resistant crop.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / history
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Herbicides* / history
  • Herbicides* / pharmacology
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Weed Control / history*


  • Herbicides
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine