Ecotoxicology of Glyphosate, Its Formulants, and Environmental Degradation Products
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The chemical and biological properties of glyphosate are key to understanding its fate in the environment and potential risks to non-target organisms. Glyphosate is polar and water soluble and therefore does not bioaccumulate, biomagnify, or accumulate to high levels in the environment. It sorbs strongly to particles in soil and sediments and this reduces bioavailability so that exposures to non-target organisms in the environment are acute and decrease with half-lives in the order of hours to a few days. The target site for glyphosate is not known to be expressed in animals, which reduces the probability of toxicity and small risks. Technical glyphosate (acid or salts) is of low to moderate toxicity; however, when mixed with some formulants such as polyoxyethylene amines (POEAs), toxicity to aquatic animals increases about 15-fold on average. However, glyphosate and the formulants have different fates in the environment and they do not necessarily co-occur. Therefore, toxicity tests on formulated products in scenarios where they would not be used are unrealistic and of limited use for assessment of risk. Concentrations of glyphosate in surface water are generally low with minimal risk to aquatic organisms, including plants. Toxicity and risks to non-target terrestrial organisms other than plants treated directly are low and risks to terrestrial invertebrates and microbial processes in soil are very small. Formulations containing POEAs are not labeled for use over water but, because POEA rapidly partitions into sediment, risks to aquatic organisms from accidental over-sprays are reduced in shallow water bodies. We conclude that use of formulations of glyphosate under good agricultural practices presents a de minimis risk of direct and indirect adverse effects in non-target organisms.
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