Sunday 16 November 2014

Not so much a secret as just not talked about.

Some years ago I was out with a couple of friends doing a bit of birding and generally poking about in the countryside as one does when we saw one of those fields that had recently been sprayed with Glyphosate and had turned that lovely characteristic rusty orange colour which triggered yet another conversation about the use of toxic substances in agriculture.

Click on photo to enlarge.

One of the people I was with works in the agricultural sector in the UK and can be a bit of a wind up merchant and I’m never sure whether he is being serious or not. Anyway he does understand the sector as an insider which is always useful, especially as trying to get a straight honest answer from farmers where I live is a total waste of time. Somehow or another during the course of this conversation he mentioned that wheat is sprayed with glyphosate, (Roundup),  in the UK as a pre-harvest crop desiccation, that is to kill off the crop to enable uniform and rapid drying just before harvesting. I have to say that at the time I wasn’t sure whether I believed him as it seemed to be such a ridiculous and stupid idea but it transpires that this has been happening for a long time and not only on wheat and not only with glyphosate, (for potatoes carfentrazone-ethyl is used). The majority of Oil seed rape in the UK is also sprayed, (up to 80%), and much of this also goes into the human food chain.

Is this an issue? Well yes it most certainly is because it turns out that Glyphosate residues are to be found in biscuits, bread and other cereal products according to the UK governments’ pesticide sampling reports. There are a number of independent studies that indicate harmful effects from Glyphosate ingestion such as one from Denmark that showed that the health of pigs was being adversely affected by eating feeds containing elevated - but still legal - levels of glyphosate. There are also a growing number of people that believe there may be a connection with this and the increasing number of people with wheat intolerance, (not Coeliac disease which is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages).

Of course Monsanto makers of Roundup dispute that there are any possible harmful effects from Glyphosate and insist that the herbicide is safe BUT then they would say that wouldn’t they?

As far as I can ascertain this specific type of spraying isn’t practiced in France or not to any great extent due to more favourable climatic conditions for natural ripening and drying although it is used on a massive scale for preparing fields for cultivation and domestically in peoples’ gardens.

Glyphosate was first marketed as a herbicide in the 1970’s as Roundup and is now has global market dominance. 

Whatever else you may think about this product it certainly shouldn't be in our food.