We all want our food to be safe and one of the benefits of home growing is that we’re in total control of chemical inputs. If we prefer to have a few holes nibbled in the leaf by bugs rather than spray, then that’s what we do.
The chemicals available to the home grower have fallen in number over the years. Some things we thought were safe have been found not to be. I suppose the best example of this is DDT. It was heralded as a wonder pesticide and it was (and is) very effective. It’s use probably saved millions of lives, killing malaria mosquitoes in developing countries.
It was only when it was found everywhere on the planet including the north pole and discovered to be causing problems with birds and mammals that it was banned. In fact it is still detectable today in human beings and the environment.
Not all chemicals that are no longer available are unsafe though. The herbicide Ammonium Sulphamate (Amcide) is very similar to the common fertiliser sulphate of ammonia. It’s been around a long time and it is very simple chemically, so the consequences of using it in the environment are known and easily predicted. It degrades to sulphate of ammonia in six to eight weeks when exposed to the air and that’s a freely available fertiliser.
It acts on plants in same way that carbon monoxide kills people. It confuses the plant into thinking they’re taking on nitrogen but they cant’t use it, so they die. It was the most effective killer for horsetail, far better than glyphosate and good for other perennial weed infestations as well.
The reason we can’t buy it now is the manufacturers were unwilling to undertake the tests for a renewed license, I understand they didn’t want to have an LD50 test on the product (for moral reasons).
Derris has been used for many years as a pesticide but this is now off the list. The reason being that one paper was published showing possible neurological effects from using a chemical from the same family. Not derris itself, just something from the same family.
There’s still chemical pesticides on the market, but not the simple, cheap derris.
And now we find aminopyralid has been re-licensed and is available once more. Despite the fact it is incredibly persistent and has proven a nightmare to home growers and allotment holders by contaminating manure and destroying hundreds (thousands?) of crops across the country. Despite petitions to government from voters (you know, those people who keep the politicians in a job)
Notice the pattern here? Simple, proven safe and cheap chemical controls can no longer be legally bought and used by the home grower. Complex and expensive chemicals with proven nasty side effects can be. Chemicals that have cost tens of millions to bring to market.
Whose side is DEFRA on?
So who is DEFRA and the EU protecting? The home grower? The public? Or large, deep pocketed chemical companies?
This article has been self-censored as I can’t afford legal actions with large rich companies. Sadly I’ll have to be careful with comments on this and may need to ‘edit’ them.