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New Research Aims To Uncover Long-Term Effects of Glyphosate Spraying on Forests

While critics call for an end to dousing cutblocks with the herbicide to encourage regrowth of commercial species, researcher takes a close look at the impacts on flowers, fungi and edible and medicinal plants to inform future decisions

Picture a helicopter flying over a cutblock, releasing a misty cloud from a sprinkler-like contraption rigged to its belly. The cloud contains a herbicide called glyphosate.

Every year, B.C. sprays about 10,000 hectares of forests with glyphosate as part of its reforestation program. The practice, which is also common in other parts of the country, gives replanted conifers a better chance to grow by killing competing plants like aspen and birch. 

Glyphosate, best known as the active ingredient in weed killer Roundup, is approved by Health Canada for use in agriculture and forestry. Several organizations and researchers have raised concerns about glyphosate’s potential effects on human health, linking it to cancer, infertility, liver disease and other ailments. Thousands of people have filed lawsuits against Bayer (formerly Monsanto), the company that makes Roundup, claiming it caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Studies have also shown glyphosate has toxic effects on earthworms, insects, amphibians and other aquatic species.