Guy’s news: Pesticides; redressing the balance

As a young man spraying crops, I frequently suffered headaches and nausea, while my brother was hospitalised with Paraquat poisoning. My decision to farm organically was initially driven simply by a desire not to handle those chemicals. Despite assurances of safety by manufacturers and regulators, most of the pesticides we used in the ‘70s and ‘80s have since been banned as evidence of damage to the environment or human health accumulated; a total of 147 previously “safe” chemicals. Every time we were told the replacements were safer, but history suggests there is no safe pesticide; as their power comes from disrupting fundamental life processes, there are only degrees of risk.

Organic farming isn’t perfect; a reasonable criticism is that without herbicides to control weeds, we end up overcultivating the soil. 30 years ago, as I planted my first organic crops and struggled to control docks I longed for glyphosate, the systemic herbicide that kills every bit of the plant, including the roots. We were told it had very low mammalian and environmental toxicity but over 40 years, as we have used an estimated ten million tonnes globally, evidence accumulated until it was classed a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the WHO in 2015.

Alongside this and similar U-turns, I have been spurred to write by frustration at the outrageous distortion of evidence put forward by the unholy alliance of the NFU and pesticide manufacturers. Initially it was suggested that restricting the use of bee-threatening neonicotinoids was unnecessary and would lead to major yield declines in wheat and oilseed rape; average yields actually rose in the UK in the years following the 2013 ban. More recently their claims that banning glyphosate will lead to a reduction in lapwing and skylark nests, and that 49% more farm labour would be required per hectare, are just too much to take. I sometimes get frustrated with the organic/environmental lobby selecting evidence to support their beliefs, but the NFU have surpassed all with their ludicrous claims. My blood is up and over the year we will be doing our best to redress the balance (hopefully in a calm and well-referenced way), starting with glyphosate, systemic pesticides and the ‘cocktail effect’. I think it’s long overdue and Big Ag won’t like it, but they’ve been shouting too loud for too long.

Guy Watson

46 responses to “Guy’s news: Pesticides; redressing the balance

  1. Hooray! Go for it Guy.

  2. Right behind you Guy. Agree with previous reviewer Jan

  3. The NFU is certainly a misnomer. The ‘farmer’ in the title is a joke. I listened with mounting frustration and anger to an agri-business man who was boasting that he spent two hours a week on his farm and couldn’t understand why others made such a big deal out of farming.
    Is it that successive governments will just not properly address this issue because they bow to the pressures from the corporate world far too easily and very often we hear that members of said governments end up working in those self same industries that they should have been regulating.
    The whole industry is rotten to the core as far as I am concerned.

  4. Well said Guy, with you all the way on this

  5. Great blog

  6. Wow Guy – strong stuff. Don’t think I’ve ever heard you so incensed. What is the motivation of Big Ag? Is their overwhelming reason-for-being to preserve jobs and income? Baffles and saddens me. It just feels like common sense to me that adding something ‘artificial’ into the delicate plant/animal environmental balance must have an effect that has far-reaching effects. But then, thankfully, my income doesn’t depend on it. I continue to be inspired by folks like you who struggle to get it right, or as right as we are able to work out.

  7. Bravo Guy! Bob (husband) and I could not agree with you more.

  8. Daphne Rowbottom

    Thanks goodness for Guy and his determination. Long may your energy and application continue. It’s why we stick with you as suppliers. I know you are likely to be the last to give up!

  9. Keep voicing your opinions as they will filter through. I read recently that Glyphosate is used in 70% of wheat crops in the UK and levels have been found in bread and grain products. People trust authority and can’t understand the notion that the Govt would let people sell potentially carcinogenic products. Try tobacco!

  10. Thank you Guy.

  11. I am 100% behind you on this, it makes my blood boil too. Only we, the people, can change the world by changing who we are and what we do. There is no truth coming out of this corporations or governments, never. They are on a mission of passionately depopulate the world and destroy the environment. We, too, have to passionately seek for the truth to save humanity and the planet. This makes our blood boil, now just think of Glyphosate being injected through vaccines into our babies everyday all around the world. And people do’t even know it. That alongside Mercury, Aluminium, aborted fetal cells tissue, animal cells, Formaldehyde, antibiotics, GMOs, genetically engineered viruses, and so many more. This doesn’t just make my blood boil, this makes me cry, it’s horrendous. They are killing our children everyday. Adults too. By 2032 is predicted that 1 in 2 children will be autistic if we do not stop this. Imagine on top of vaccines all the toxins they breed from the environment and ingest from the food they eat . I passionately research everyday and will do everything I can to stop it. Please watch the movie Vaxxed, is now available to download in the UK through Amazon (I only paid £1 on Amazon), or on Please listen to the parents stories on their website by clicking anywhere on the map or go on YouTube or on The Vaxxed team are incredible, they will change the world. They will be coming to the UK next month to listen to people’s stories who have been injured by Vaccines. Guy, I think you could do the same, create a movement by listening and reporting people’s stories who have been injured or affected by Glyphosate and other chemicals . That will be real evidence. That’s what Vaxxed have been doing after they released the movie. Thank you for all that you do for us all. Please watch Vaxxed if you haven’t already and pass on to other people. Knowledge is power. We all have to come together and help one another.

    • Ana, there was some news of flawed research by Samuel on Glyphosate & vaccines. What references do you have?
      Ditto Formaldehyde.
      It’ll all depend on what things are made of. Plant derived chemicals can have all sorts of things from the soil they grew in. Here in Britain we shouldn’t have GMOs, because they’re banned.

  12. Wonderful! Keep it up Guy!

  13. You may be interested in this? A farmer who recovers toxic land by planting weeds!

  14. Bull’s eye, Guy!

  15. Heartened to hear this. 18 months ago I could barely walk, but now I’ve returned to organic food and stripped every nasty I can out of my diet and home, I can now walk again. Long overdue indeed. Thank you, Guy.

  16. Thank you so much for this. Please keep it up. Big business is so powerful
    I garden organically but most of the plots around mine are not organic;a few times when I’ve come to the allotments, I’ve found my eyes watering and am coughing more, which may sound trivial but it all adds up
    Though it does seems better this year: I’ve seen many more bees this month than is usual.

  17. Right behind you on this Guy! Keep up the good work! Thank you so much.

  18. I can only agree wholeheartedly with everything said above. I am an urban dweller with a family but common sense dictates that neonics and other such chemicals must be a mistake. If there is a faint risk that they are harmful surely we can’t take the chance. Cheap food at any cost will have hidden dangers and no amount of profit can offset that. Coals to Newcastle, I know, but do so few people care about their children’s wellbeing. I have sleepless nights, but maybe that’s just me!

  19. Marie Ange Linehan

    Totally agree with you. Absolutely support these views.

  20. Much power to your elbow on this campaign Guy!

  21. Totally agree with all the comments. Is there anything practical that can be done to help.
    I have spoken to the Cornwall trust for nature conservation, RSPB,& NFU, must admit I haven’t approached the MP yet, they did agree that the use of pesticides etc, ploughing, use of chemical additions to the soil and animal feed (except the NFU ! ) but nothing they do is illegal so people feel powerless.

  22. Couldn’t be more supportive of your thoughts Guy. What are we doing to our bodies? Why are so few people driven by maintaining good health and instead going for the cheap, contaminated option? We all eat too much, reduce the quantity and eat top quality say I. It would be so beneficial. I am a very loyal supporter even on a very limited income and think I’ve got my priorities right. It’s little better than manslaughter of our population.

  23. Guy, you have my admiration and support for taking on likes of Monsanto. I recently resigned my membership to the RHS, over their promotion of Roundup in their magazine The Garden. Needless to say, the RHS response was patronising.

  24. Go for it Guy, fully support you! I’ve always doubted the NFU’s motives and who they pretend to represent, and this simply reinforces that belief.

  25. How grateful I am to be a part of Riverford with such an inspirational leader. You are fantastic Guy. Let’s spread the message of the vile acts of these corporations who care only for profits at the expense of humanity. Let’s wake people up of there ignorance. Your doing a great job. These big cooperation will not be getting away with these horrible acts for much longer!

  26. Crack on, Guy. If only more people publicly spoke up on the issues you highlight in your blog.

  27. Go Guy!

  28. Great blog Guy, I too have recently resigned my membership of the RHS after more than 40 years membership , over their regular advertisements from Bayer and Monsanto , and their blatant absence of any fight back against “chemical” cultivation despite proper scientific evidence to the contrary. Well done for your lifelong ecological farming.

  29. Keep at it, Guy. I like the way you think globally and act locally. A luta continua! This adds extra flavour to your already delicious produce.

  30. Pesticides are chemical weapons that kill life forms. The use of pesticides has increased exponentially in the last 70 years and so has the rate of cancer.

  31. Agree wholeheartedly. The political establishment needs to be made more accountable for what they are doing (or not doing) and young people need to see how this affects their future and their health and the health of the planet.

  32. Again, agree totally. It is simple, time and time again we see people unbalancing nature and then poor more time, effort and money into more chemicals and ways of getting what they want out of the land. If we poison the soil, we poison the plant and we poison ourselves.

    Perhaps it is too simple an answer in this complicated world.

    I listened to Guy at a WI conference a few years ago in Truro, which is still a farming area in the whole, and I was shocked by the very ignorant questions being asked and it illustrated to me just how little people know or want to know. Guy was very patient and gracious with his replies, and I was, once again, very impressed with the manner in which he undertook the speach and questions afterwards.

    Well done Guy – there are a lot who agree with you, there are also some that, once you have broken down the brick walls in people’s minds, may see the light!

  33. Thanks Guy – you are an ongoing inspiration to try to do the right thing even when it’s hard. People might be interested in this from the Guardian a couple of weeks ago:

    It’s about the latest in a series of thoroughly researched UN reports (produced free from the lobbying influence of agribusiness) that debunk the myths Monsanto et al so like to push. One in 2013 concluded that smallscale organic farming offers the best route to feeding the world sustainably.

  34. barbara etherington

    Well said Guy, with you all the way on this one. Some suggestions that might be useful. The Soil Association and CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) Both have huge email databases and might be willing to join forces on a campaign. How about doing a online petition? 100,000 subscribers would result in a debate in parliament. As The Guardian likes the pub, maybe they would accept an article from you for publication?

  35. Pingback: Glyphosate Back in the News - of Regulation, Revolving Doors, Pesticides & Politics

  36. More power to your elbow, Guy

  37. A Light in the darkness ! Thank you

  38. Readers of this might like to sign a new SumofUs petition: go to

    If you do sign you’ll get further emails from SumofUs about a rnage of issues, but it’s easy to unsubscribe of you want to.

  39. Deborah Davenport

    Keep up the good work Guy – this is really important. However, one of the earlier comments is relevant – cheap food. I have long believed that people have no idea of the consequences of the production of cheap food (i.e. use of chemicals and poor animal husbandry). As well as fighting back against Big Ag we also need to educate our citizens. And perhaps teach them to cook.

  40. It makes me want to stay living in this area knowing that there is a farmer such as yourself producing good quality organic food. You may be in a minority but you certainly know the truth which most people seem to want to ignore. Thank you for all your hard work and effort – I for one certainly appreciate it.

  41. Thank you for this article Guy – it arrived just as I really needed to read it.
    We began renting a small house and garden in August, our landlord owns over 500 acres that surround us. Last Thursday his team sprayed the two fields adjacent to us, I was caught up in a pesticide drift and since then have been coughing up blood from the ulcers in my throat.
    It was a big shock and has been a horrible few days since. I hope that somehow he can be encouraged to farm organically, or sell his land to someone who will.
    In the meantime, my husband and I will enjoy your weekly veg box, recover and look for a new home.
    Thank you for Riverford!

  42. I couldn’t agree more. We only ever buy organic food (mainly from Riverford) and I only ever buy Riverford meat. We are also members of the soil association. People underestimate the effects of pesticide residue in food, when I make a fuss about non organic food being fed to my kids my local school, family think I am nuts. Glysophate being sprayed around kids play parks also really upsets me. Organic farming is not perfect but as far as I can see is the only model for sustainability, wildlife, environmental and human health. Guy you deserve a knighthood, looking forward to eating at the Riverford farm kitchen again with the kids.

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