Wheat field in summer, blue skies, the harvest


What could be more beautiful than a field of ripening wheat on a glorious summers day, blue skies and a combine harvester that runs on clean electricity. Could that ever happen with our crusty farmers in love with diesel. Happen or not, it should be an EU directive that harvesting is subject to emission controls. A freshly baked loaf of bread would then taste all the better.





The makers of glyphosate claim that it is unlikely to pollute the water (ground or surface). However, a recent paper from San Paulo State University, Brazil, shows that glyphosate formulations profoundly affect the algae in fresh water. Researchers have found traces of glyphosate in wells, ground waters and reservoirs across Europe and the UK. Water contamination is probably as a result of drift from spraying, or from soil run off and erosion.


The World Health Organisation listed glyphosate as probably carcinogenic. Numerous other independent research studies have looked into the chemical's negative impacts. These include damage to liver, kidney and skin cells, as well as disruption to soil and aquatic life.


Concerned environmental NGOs and individuals wanted glyphosate banned - but a licence has been granted for 5 years. The EU Commission added certain recommendations for its use: to ban the co-formulant, POE-tallowamine; to reinforce scrutiny of farmer's use of glyphosate just before harvest; and to minimise its use in specific areas, such as public parks and playgrounds. To date it is unclear if the UK government is prepared to accept these recommendations. See here for an analysis of the responses to the licence renewal.


Glyphosate is rarely used on its own, but as part of a chemical cocktail, for instance with the trade name Roundup or Weedol.

These formulations are potentially far more dangerous. Dr Robin Mesnage of Kings College London, writes: "We know Roundup, the commercial name of glyphosate-based herbicides, contains many other chemicals, which when mixed together are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on its own."


Recent research has show these other chemicals include arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead and nickel.





















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