Guy’s news: Glyphosate part 2 (following on from last week)

Gunpowder, nuclear bombs, PCBs, DDT, burning fossil fuels, antibiotics fed to animals as growth promoters, factory farming and overconsumption of meat, overfishing, deforestation… If we can, and someone can benefit from it, we will. Can we ever learn to balance public benefit against as-yet-unquantified public and environmental risk, and then implement the necessary global restraints?
Will we ever put wisdom ahead of cleverness and greed? I heard a philosopher asking why, given our infinite universe, we have not found any sign of intelligent life on other planets. He argued that intelligent life would inevitably destroy itself, and would therefore be gone in a blink of geological time. Is it inevitable that our incredible powers of innovation combined with our voracious appetites will destroy humanity, taking most other life on this planet with us?

Coming back down to earth, I spent the morning wrestling with the perennial weeds that threaten to engulf some trees we planted last spring. The only effective organic way to control them is exhaustive cultivation: tilling the area three or four times, at two weekly intervals. It takes time, fuel, and beats the life out of the soil, depleting organic matter and releasing CO2. Is that better for me and for the environment than applying 0.5g/m2 of glyphosate? Actually I doubt it, especially as it would only take two applications, just around the trees (10% of the area), in a two-hundred-year cycle. But this would be a tiny fraction of the glyphosate used globally. Most is used to make large-scale arable farming a bit easier, particularly as a pre-harvest desiccant of grain crops that will be harvested just two or three weeks later and are often destined for human consumption (the reason why most of us have glyphosate in our urine). Given the small benefit to a small number of people, and the risk to so many and to our planet, this seems an example of failure to balance risk and benefit.

How can such a balance be achieved? For now, I have more faith in fear than in wisdom. Last week I mentioned the legal challenge being put up by Client Earth. A customer has brought to my attention the attempts of an international group of lawyers to designate ecocide as an international crime arbitered by international courts, as with war crimes. Learn more at

Guy Singh-Watson

7 responses to “Guy’s news: Glyphosate part 2 (following on from last week)

  1. People should read what Dr. Mercola has to say about Glyphosate. I personally don’t want it anywhere near what I eat.

  2. What a dilemma about the trees! What did you decide to do in the end about the weeds?

  3. Paula Clutterbuck

    What about the water table problem?

  4. Christine Gaskill

    The problem with the ecocide law is it’s based on scientific opinion. As we all know science isn’t fixed, it’s a narrative based on what the consensus belief is at any given moment. The consensus may be wrong, as in the case of the cause of stomach ulcers and the belief that the Sun orbited the Earth. Add to that the fact that scientists can be bought (smoking) and it all gets very dodgy.

  5. Have you tried using mulch mats when you plant trees? We’ve found them very effective. You could probably make them out of pieces of old Mypex.

  6. And the faster we go the more we destroy as our cars are ALL killing machines. New stretch of the A66 finished = 3 less hedgehogs in just over 400m as I drove home yesterday. No insects / reducing numbers? When did anyone in a farming community have to stop every couple of miles, or less, to wipe the dead bugs and flies off their windscreens in recent years? Fewer insects = fewer song birds = less food for our birds of prey but increased road kill means carrion a plenty.

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