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Is the end of herbicides drawing nearer?

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Since glyphosate commercialization began in 1974, this has become the main component of herbicides, being applied in various sectors, as agriculture, industry, and private households.

However, these components are harmful to human and soil health leading to a lot of problems, including non-healthy food and soil degradation. Nowadays, it’s urgent to reduce or annul the use of herbicides, pesticides, and other chemical components used on a daily basis.

A research team at the University of Tübingen is working on the development of a "natural herbicide". It is an unusual sugar, 7-deoxy-sedoheptulose (7dSh), and is produced by cyanobacteria. This compound can also be called an anti-metabolite, which is an analog of natural enzyme substrates; i.e., anti-metabolites can bind to a substrate but are not converted into the functional product, thus blocking a biological process, and are extremely useful for controlling the growth of microorganisms, fungi, and plants. In this particular case, 7dSh acts on a key enzyme of the shikimic acid pathway, which is only present in microorganisms and plants, and is therefore absent in humans and animals. Moreover, this anti-metabolite shows no cytotoxic effects in mammalian cell studies.

Some studies are still needed that determine the medical and economic potential of 7dSh. Nevertheless, this “natural herbicide” appears to be very promising as an agent to a more sustainable agriculture, water management, veterinary medicine, and even human medicine.

This note was written based on this article.

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