As an avid gardener and proponent of grow your own, I have always tried to focus on organic methods of growing. By organic I mean limiting the use of raw chemicals, so I would use horse manure as a fertiliser rather than buying a chemical preparation, granted that it is the chemicals (mostly nitrogen) in the horse muck which affect the plant growth. I also try to use weed prevention techniques such as no dig or ground cover rather than spraying weedkiller.
I felt compelled however to write about the use of glyphosate based weedkillers (chemical weedkillers that you buy from garden centres will most likely have glyphosate as the active ingredient – the most well known one is Roundup) when I read last week that the European Parliament is trying to ban the use of glyphosate weedkillers I have read up extensively on glyphosate weedkillers and it would seem that use in agriculture is essential if we are not going to starve to death. The potential risks to the general public are negligible and for farmers using glyphosate if they follow recommended safety procedures their health is also highly unlikely to be adversely affected.
It is so easy for the eco-warriors to create mass hysteria by mentioning the dreaded C word. If you look beyond the sensationalist headlines, one obscure agency called the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in March 2015 that glyphosate is probably able to cause cancer in humans – well as we all know many products we come into contact with on a daily basis can also be classified thus if used wrongly or in large doses. Here are a few more interesting facts about this IARC report:
- A scientist advising the IARC about the link of glysophate to cancer, received $160,000 from law firms bringing claims by cancer victims against the manufacturer of a popular glyphosate based weedkiller in the USA…
- The initial report by the IARC seems to have found glyphosate was not carcinogenic to humans, but there were some mysterious editing to the original draft before it was published
- Seven months after the IARC review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the European Union, published a different assessment, saying glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”.
I do hope that we can continue to use glyphosate in the UK first and foremost to keep the general population fed, but also to help us gardeners in our allotments and gardens with those particularly stubborn weeds.
And just a note for those struggling organic gardeners – like most of us mortals trying to juggle job family and allotment, you don’t have the time, money or resources to garden in the way the celebrity gardeners do it on the telly so don’t worry if you use glyphosate weedkillers or metaldehyde slug pellets alongside vinegar sprays and beer traps – your crops will still definitely be tastier and more organic that the stuff in the supermarkets!