False Horizons On The Way To The Allotment: A Not So Bucolic Picture?


I usually have a camera with me when I go gardening. The field path from our house to the allotment provides many diversions; opportunities to stand and stare. And also there’s often something to snap around my plot. I took this photo just over a week ago. Even then the wheat looked more than ready to harvest. But it was infested with wild oats, hence the feathery ‘horizon’ seen here above the wheat.

Earlier this week,  while I was picking runner beans, I heard the roar of an approaching tractor, and looked up to see the farmer on his mega vehicle, massive spraying rig in action. He was dosing the fields behind and beside the allotment.

Then the breeze got up.

“Roundup,” muttered my allotment neighbour crossly, he who also happens to be an agricultural consultant of many years standing. “Just look how it’s drifting.” It was definitely coming our way. We don’t use weed killer so we had a mutual humph. What else could we do?

Roundup is the most widely sold weed killer in the world. It’s  main active ingredient is glyphosate, but it is also combined with a number of apparently inert adjuvants. These are substances that are added to accelerate,  prolong or enhance the action of the main ingredient.  Adjuvants are also added to vaccines for similar reasons, but that’s another story.

Here’s what Britain’s Soil Association has to say about Montsanto’s glyphosate. If you follow this link, and feel so minded, you can find out more and sign the petition to get it banned. And just to spur you on:

…glyphosate can follow the grain into our food. Tests by the Defra* Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF) found that almost two thirds of wholemeal bread sampled contained glyphosate.

* Defra is the UK Government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

As to actual health risk, the World Health Organisation seems to be at odds with itself as to whether glyphosate is more of danger through external exposure or as residues in our food. Even so, I find it alarming that according to The Guardian, urine samples taken from 48 Members of the European Parliament showed that

all had glyphosate traces in their bodies, with the average concentration being 1.7 micrograms a litre, 17 times above the limit for drinking water.

But whatever its full effects prove to be, I’m with the The Green Party’s MEP for the south-west of England when she says:

With ongoing controversy over the health risks of glyphosate, we can be quite sure it has no place in the human body. We hold concerns for its impact on biodiversity, with evidence of glyphosate having detrimental impacts on the honey bee, monarch butterfly, skylark and earthworm populations, and posing a threat to the quality of our soil.

Molly Scott Cato MEP

Well why would I, or anyone want to eat weed killer?

38 thoughts on “False Horizons On The Way To The Allotment: A Not So Bucolic Picture?

  1. This is the type of tale that freaks me out.
    I don’t think I want to investigate if it is here ….. I am sure it is, of course, and I’ll bet the controls for its usage are not as stringent as over there.
    Like you, I keep my garden free ( that I am aware of) from all pesticides and weedkillers.
    As Ten Years After once sang: If I could change the world …

      1. Well, my garden appears to be ”user-friendly”. I photographed a never before seen at the Arks’s spot species of butterfly yesterday!
        Was the thrill of the day!

  2. I can not imagine how I would feel if a big sprayer full of Roundup was blowing mist toward my precious plants and family. I actually held my breath when I read that, so I wouldn’t breathe it in. I have neighbors with land adjoining farms who experience it.

    1. It is horrifying when you think of it in those terms. We have a couple of very successful organic farms in Shropshire. They’ve been going for decades, and market their flours and oat products directly, so it can be done.

  3. It KILLED all the robins in our area. Killed them while they were sitting in their nest on the eggs. They just fell over, dead. I have never forgiven the neighbors for that. We still don’t have many robins and that was two years ago.

  4. A seriously bad situation. It infuriates me to think that this is being imposed upon us by huge corporate fat cats….who I don’t believe give a fig about the long term consequences. I will definitely follow this and sign any petitions I can. Thank you for the alert. Janet 🙂

      1. How to remain healthy seems a tad less easy, unless you are loaded with money, or energy to grow your own, neither of which apply to me’

  5. Well…I think it is population control. Our food, air we breath and water we drink has all been poison laced. That is.why there is so much sickness…children and adults and now our pets too. Not very encouraging.

  6. An incredible invasion, Tish. It removes from you all choice about what you add to your garden and your intestines. The brown bread story is particularly concerning not to mention robins, bees, butterflies, skylarks and worms. Again you have brought a large issue home to me via particularities.

    1. I learned the particularity lesson from a day spent with Dr David Starkey – before he became a famous British media historian. I was working at a museum and had invited him to do some consultation for said institution. I think it was me who benefited most from the encounter 🙂

  7. I tried twice to sign the petition but it wouldn’t open, but I’ve signed several others here in Canada and in Australia. Glyphosate and Monsanto are truly evil.

    1. Along with all the poisonous justifications of feeding the world, and locking farmers into growing only certain crops whose seeds they must buy from Monsanto…If it’s one thing people should learn – not to give corporations control over their food and water supplies.

      1. Yes I agree, and thanks for highlighting this issue. I am amazed that a local consortium of farmers here (and whose lands are part of a nature conservancy) uses a no-till system of farming that requires regular applications of Roundup to the fields, and yet this system is regarded as an environmentally friendly practice. Because of no tilling, herbicides are used to control weeds. I have read that because many weeds are becoming resistant to Roundup, Paraquat (still used in the USA exported from the UK!) is increasingly being used with it. See https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/business/paraquat-weed-killer-pesticide.htmlT
        I have been reading some articles on the pros and cons of no-till farming on an industrial scale. So far, not exactly cheering.

  8. We are privileged living on the coast of Norfolk with smaller fields, lots of hedges and room for birds and animals. But actually the area is overpopulated with animals. 20 minutes inland North Norfolk we have the green deserts, a topic we blogged about. No room for birds and animals. But with every coin, it has two sides …

    1. Too right about 2-sided coins, Dina. It’s good to know that there are areas teeming with wildlife, and where the hedges have not been grubbed up for big-field planting and the huge machines that go with them.

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