Should we ban chemicals in agriculture?
This is a strange question to some but it needs discussing rationally because while chemicals are a natural part of life, there is a lot of pressure from media and city people to ban all chemicals in agriculture. It makes me want to ask people “should we ban all chemicals in the house or in medicines?”
So what is a chemical?
“Any basic substance that is used in or produced by a reaction involving changes to atoms or molecules.”
Are natural chemicals good and synthetics bad?
No! The most toxic chemicals are actually natural ones, like; carbon monoxide, TB, cancer, arsenic, nicotine, petrol, or e-coli (in organic sprouts) and there are many synthetic chemicals that are benign! The most toxic chemical, by a million times, is botulinum – a natural one!
What “safe” chemical kill?
In the USA some 4,000 people die each year from drowning. Excess water kills, drinking too much water kills people. It is called water poisoning. This is an important point because it shows clearly that:
It’s the dose that makes the poison
Too much of anything can kill. Eight litres of water drunk in one go will kill almost anyone. There are simple tests that show the toxicity of chemicals – natural and synthetic ones. Google the lethal dose that kills 50% of a population (LD-50) for any chemical and you will find some fascinating answers. You will find that table salt is twice as toxic as glyphosate.
Should be ban salt?
No, of course not, at the right dose it is safe. In fact too little salt causes serious cramps and osmotic imbalance in the human body. It’s the dose that makes the poison.
What household chemicals more toxic than glyphosate?
The list is long. Think soap, deodorant, detergent, fly spray, caustic soda, caffeine, aspirin, salt, oven cleaner, alcohol, vitamin A and bleach – to name a few. Alcohol has about the same toxicity as glyphosate.
So why the demonisation of glyphosate?
The honest answer may surprise you. There is no independent safety regulatory body in the world that believes glyphosate is a cancer causing chemical. There is one biased body that believes it is “probably causes cancer” and that is a group (IARC) they believe that almost everything causes cancer, including cooking meat.
Here is a 227 page report discussing every aspect of the issue https://src.bna.com/iE2 . Their conclusion is “the available data and weight-of-evidence clearly do not support the descriptors “carcinogenic to humans”, “likely to be carcinogenic to humans”. The issue is not one of science but a geo-political one!
The EU has not adopted biotech and is moving towards organic farming, though at still less than 10% of its land is farmed organically, but they want a market premium advantage. Since the demonisation of biotech crops in the EU has failed they want to pull that technology back via an alternative pathway. Ironically the EU imports 30M tonnes of Roundup Ready soy every year. Yet they publicly demonise that technology and now Roundup.
So why have Californian Lawyers won the Roundup cases?
Lawyers do receive large fees for winning court cases in the USA. The State of California was deliberately chosen as there is no need to show “probable cause” of harm, or evidence of harm, in that state. The lawyers just had to get the juries to agree with their sad stories.
Why am I defending glyphosate?
I believe in defending the truth, indeed it is my Christian faith that compels me to speak truth, as best I know it. Glyphosate is actually one of the safest herbicides on the market. The benefits of glyphosate for stopping soil erosion and building soil health are undisputed, especially in my home town.
I receive no fee for defending glyphosate. In fact Bayer are probably happy to see this simple and cheap molecule removed as it will allow them to release more expensive products to replace it. Indeed, glyphosate has been off patent for 20 years in Australia and it is a cheap, effective and safe molecule. I have used it a lot in research since 1985 and on my farm for the last 13 years.
I believe this is the thin edge of the wedge. Once the activists and media get glyphosate banned then everything else will be easier to remove. The more toxic herbicides, which I have used most years, and carefully, without harm, is paraquat, yet this was not their targeted.
Africa needs to embrace modern smart farming. Glyphosate is one of those cheap tools that takes the hard work out of farming and it allows no-tillage to flourish. With no-tillage comes improved soil microbiology and soil health. Banning glyphosate will see increased water erosion of the soils – Africa’s most precious resource.