Herbicide shortage underlines its importance

April 9, 2022


The United States is facing a historic shortage of weed killers due to ongoing supply chain issues. The manufacturers are struggling to get their hands on some of the inert chemicals needed to make herbicides, as well as cardboard boxes and plastic jugs for caps. Glyphosate is one of the chemicals most affected by these supply chain problems, with farmers scrambling for alternative products to fight off undesired weeds.

This comes conjointly with a regulatory and legislative crackdown on a wide array of herbicides across the country, limiting the ability of farmers to control weeds this year.

The fact that rules vary between counties complicates the matter further, with agriculture professionals confused over which ingredients remain legally accessible, and needing the assistance of weed scientists to sift through the regulatory jungle. This is particularly problematic as many farmers have land extending across different counties.

While shortages affect the day-to-day lives of farmers, law makers’s long-term actions have more far-reaching consequences.

Weed-killers have come under fire by activist groups opposing the use of crop protection, accusing it of harming endangered species. Preventing these species from going extinct is guaranteed through the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a problematic piece of legislation due to its obtuse standards as to what exactly constitutes an endangered species in the first place.

As Hank Campbell at Science 2.0 explains, the ESA has been hijacked by trial lawyers, who use the law to arbitrarily fit their litigation purposes, and perpetuate definitions of “endangered” that are far removed from what the general public understands by the term. In fact, Campbell shows that the numbers of endangered species according to the ESA has skyrocketed under the Clinton and Obama administrations. As a result, we’ve seen a large amount of chemicals companies being sued, then settled, with environmental groups over their manufacturing of pesticides.

As a consumer, why care? As consumers we need to realize that crop protection plays a role in our daily lives, and not in the way it is portrayed by activists and, all too often, the media. When news outlets publish stories with the headline “Glyphosate weed killer found in German beers, study finds,” it makes sense to read through the entire piece and understand that a single person would need to ingest 264 gallons of beer a day for it to be harmful to health. Let’s agree that a person ingesting 264 gallons of beer in one day will supposedly have bigger problems than the exposure to a weed-killer. In turn, herbicides which are so viciously attacked on unscientific grounds provide essential advantages for farmers.

Pre-herbicides we used to hand weed, a practice so painfully visible in developing nations that still practice it. Herbicides alleviate the burden on women and all too often children who are required to hand-weed. In fact, 80% of hand-weeding in Africa is done by women, and 69% of farm children between the ages of 5 through 14 are forced to leave school to work in the agricultural sector during peak weeding periods, leading to long-term spinal deformities.

Herbicides have also increased our agricultural output, and guaranteed food security. Food security– how immense the technological advance is that we don’t even think about the possibilities of food products not being available on our shelves.

That said, the current food price inflation shows how vulnerable our system can actually be. Farming is more than just putting a seed in the ground and hoping it grows. Farming has become an intricate orchestra of players, all interdependent, all relying on technology and modern science. As consumers, if we want safe, available, and affordable food options, we need to recognize the incredibly important work that farmers do, and put our trust in their professional rigor.

Bill Wirtz is the senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’m troubled that CCN would choose to run this “Opinion” piece from monied representatives of the industrial chemicals industry.

Think about it. If you wouldn’t drink a very diluted cup of the stuff, doesn’t it seem reasonable to have some regulations on how its used?

Its also shocking how poorly written and poorly reasoned this piece is! I’m still rolling with laughter every time I imagine “weed scientists” sifting “through the regulatory jungle.” Scientists don’t typically deal with regulations….but scientist DOES rhyme with lobbyist. LOL

Looks like it’s time to put people on public assistance to work pulling weeds.

1 gallon white vinegar + 2 cups salt + quarter cup dish soap = weeds gone

Not a good idea. The salt stays in the soil. Nothing will grow there again (or at least for a long time). Only use this where you never want anything to grow again.

“alleviate the burden on women and all too often children: Oh won’t someone think of the children?

No they at the “Corporate Choice Center” just want to deregulate things including tobacco, herbicides and more.

“This lobbying group was set up by the U.S.-based Students for Liberty in 2017, with staff in the United States, Canada and the EU. The CCC promotes looser regulation of consumer products in reportedly over 100 countries, covering, for example food and agriculture policies, food and soda taxes, food labelling, health care and tobacco harm reduction. CCC has received funding from Japan Tobacco International, who co-funded its launch event and is a member of CCC, and Philip Morris International.”

“Students for Liberty Co-founder Alexander McCobin described the establishment of SFL in an interview with HeadCountBlog,

“The origins of SFL can be traced back to the summer of 2007 when I was a Koch Summer Fellow at the Reason Foundation, sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. Other Koch Summer Fellows ran pro-liberty student organizations on their campuses, so I organized a roundtable discussion …….”

“Ties to the Koch Brothers

Students for Liberty was founded by Koch Summer Fellows in the summer of 2007. [3] Since then, it has received $290,435 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation and another $13,800 from the Charles Koch Institute. The Charles Koch Institute also recruits students at SFL events.[4]


Students for Liberty does not disclose its donors, but some of its funding sources are known through other tax filings. Student for Liberty’s known funders include:

Bradley Foundation: $10,000 (2015)

Charles G. Koch Foundation: $290,435 (2009-2015)

Charles Koch Institute: $13,800 (2015)

DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund: $1,910,199 (2010-2015)

Snider Foundation: $22,500 (2015,2018)”


Low effort right wing policy spam poised as opinion.

Herbicides are considered carcinogens, so are pesticides and fertilizer, most of them derived from oil. Most first world countries ban the use out of them. Yield loss without the use of them is negligible. Water tables in CA, specifically the valley, are toxic; water has to be trucked in. Ag workers have higher rates of children with deformations associated with them. Most first world universities have easily accessible studies to prove this. Lobbying firms pay off sick scientists to say they’re safe. There’s a reason there’s been local bee die offs. I can site any sources needed. Asbestos used to be legal, so did lead in paint. Atascadero, due to this and other chemicals from the landfill, has poisoned water and now has to build a filtration plant. Dna is mutated from farming chemicals, ruins the soil and the general ecosystem. Industrial farming to make BS good we don’t need is destroying the earth, killing reefs etc etc. I wonder how much the author took in blood money to share this “data”.

Meant to say BS food, like Twinkies etc. The more local seasonal organic produce we buy, the better off we are* No human needs Industrially toxic manufactured crap. Lastly, Industrial farmers are forced into growing this crap for greedy businesses and they barely make a living.