With all this talk about glyphosate, what’s a gardener to do? Trying to calculate the actual risk to the environment is not easy.
The top terrace of the new terraced area needs levelling but the grass is growing fast and to level it I need to dig or rotavate over before raking it. I sprayed with glyphosate to kill off the existing sward and when it’s died off and been levelled I’ll re-sow with a poultry ley for the hens.
There’s been quite a bit of talk about glyphosate risks recently which I’ve been following. My take on it is that used, as I do, occasionally, exceptionally and minimally for clearing land or killing off persistent weeds like bindweed, glyphosate is pretty safe and presents no real risk to the environment or myself.
That’s not the same thing as a farm worker spraying large amounts regularly and being exposed to both spray on the skin and breathing it in.
There’s a massive amount of glyphosate based weedkillers used in the UK. From what I gather it’s often used when there’s a gap between crops to clean off any weeds and reduce competition.
In the USA another use for glyphosate is to weed genetically-modified crops that have been made resistant to the weedkiller.
I’m not convinced that the frequent use of large amounts of glyphosate based weedkillers is without harm to the environment.
There’s a massive difference in risk. Putting it another way, taking an aspirin for a headache once is very safe but take a high dose 4 times a day for a week or two and you’ll most likely develop stomach problems.
Vitamin C is supposed to help if you have a cold but megadoses will cause an upset stomach. It’s all a matter of quantity.
It’s hard to sort the fact from fiction on the interweb, some sites in the US see dark conspiracies by companies such as Monsanto and cite studies that were suppressed. I think most likely the reputable scientific press found them lacking in rigour.
And, of course, companies like Monsanto have much to gain by being economical with the truth, should they be so minded.
In the end I think it’s important to remember that glyphosate is approved by DEFRA and their equivalent organisations like the US EPA abroad. However, Friends of the Earth have produced a report critical of the testing and approval process.
Sometimes you just have to take a view as to risk versus reward.
I know I could use sheets of black polythene to kill off the grass but it takes longer and with the wind here the plastic is most likely to end up as bits flying around the fields. Not to mention that plastic is made from oil and is pretty ugly. I don’t think it’s the ideal solution for me.