Glyphosate still under scrutiny

Glyphosate continues to fuel the conversations taking place on The Western Producer’s social media channels again this week.

Last week you’ll recall, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a subgroup of the United Nations’ World Health Organization, released a report categorizing glyphosate as a substance “probably carcinogenic to humans,” which began the buzz on social media.
This week, follow-up stories to the release of that report have taken the lead.
Among those stories, WP reporter Robert Arnason’s interview with Keith Solomon, a University of Guelph professor emeritus and a globally recognized authority on pesticides, has led the way in stimulating debate.

A reader identifying himself as Richard writes:
“The irony is of course that we have willfully created a global food production system totally dependent on one ingredient. And no amount of self righteous indignation and sophistry from the perpetrators, their heelers and those addicted to use is going to change the fact that none of these people have a sniff on how to create an alternate system….. Glyphosate is finished…..Never mind toxicity, it has hit the brick wall of biological obsolescence…..it no … longer … works….. And an entire sector of the global economy drunk on its own excess of the holy wine for 40 years, finds itself stumbling to rearrange the deck chairs….”

A reader identifying himself as First Officer replies:
“Nah. If glyphosate were taken off the market, yields would drop back to about what they were about 15 years ago for RR crops, but not for B.t. crops. A significant drop that will cause a big spike in food prices, but agriculture will not collapse. For corn, Atrazine would step back in. After a few years, we’d have developed new biotech solutions.”

Which prompted Richard to reply:
“So not only is glyphosate obsolete, so is B.t…. Yep, as predicted, the root worm has conquered the biotech poster child … in less than 10 years…. Atrazine? Perhaps you might look at the litigation surrounding Atrazine and other organophosphates … The dirty dozen…. Out with the sixties pal…. You know the problem with ego based agriculture is that it offers mostly honest people the false belief that they will be the first one granted an end run around natural law…. Biological reality is the sum total of evolution and it will always take your quick fix bio-chem marketing fantasies to the mat…. Furthermore, the public is rapidly evolving to the point where it is no longer willing to subsidize an agricultural paradigm of environmental intoxication….”

Richard’s assertion that B.t. technology is obsolete caught Paul Anderson’s attention:
“B.t. is NOT obsolete. It still controls the European corn borer very well and there is no reason to think that will change anytime soon. The B.t. for rootworm and the B.t. for corn borer are quite different events. The corn borer one has been around a lot longer, is a lot stronger and is better matched to the physiology of the insect.
“You really ought to be glad the corn borer B.t. continues to work. It has kept a lot of organo-phosphates out of the environment.”

A reader identifying himself as AnotherLover took the time to point out a possible scenario where B.t. technology might become obsolete. AnotherLover writes:
“Well said. But there is reason to believe B.t. will continue to decrease in effectiveness — its overuse. Same thing with antibiotics. It’s a scary notion to see insects genetically evolve themselves to resist B.t. It’s a freakin’ nightmare. Insects that resist B.t. will be unstoppable by natural methods. We push this far enough and organic farming will be impossible, conventional will be impossible and all that will be left is patented seeds that can resist the environmental — what do you call this? Insects that survive an ancient and effective insecticide plants have used forever, and plants evolving to survive herbicide — call it weirdness. Then, growers that wanted nothing to do with Monsanto or GMO crops will have to face these problems GMO farming techniques created. Just a thought.”

Being told, “he ought to be glad,” didn’t sit well with Richard, prompting the following response. Richard writes:
“I ought to be glad? Sorry, I’ve got 10 to 12 year rotations on my farm…. I don’t create a pathway for these kind of outbreaks…. But I get the distinct impression that you should be thankful for B.t…. Sadly, any basic web search on B.t. resistance in corn borer is happening all over the planet….”

Sifting through that exchange, a reader identifying himself as Mike felt compelled to share his experience. Mike writes:
“Hi Richard. Glyphosate works very well on my 21 acre farm, and I see it working on lots of farms around me. Weed resistance is not a problem other than mare’s tail, but our cover crop takes care of that. The alternatives to glyphosate are increased tillage, which damages soil structure and increases greenhouse gases and uses more fossil fuels.”

A reader identifying himself as Ripshed, in response to Richard’s comments about glyphosate being obsolete, summarized his thoughts on the matter, and Richard’s commentary on it, thusly:
“Obsolete? Hardly. A lot of hyperbole and no evidence.”

You can find the comments above, and join the discussion yourself, on The Western Producer website at bit.ly/1FWkuR8, or on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/westernproducer.
We’d love to hear what you think.

Contact paul.yanko@producer.com

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