Recently I got an email from the CEO of a chemical company, a friend of a farmer friend, who is also very active in “helping” farmers. The difference is that he works to support farmers to use less glyphosate on their crops. He believes that farmers can use other products on their crops in conjunction with glyphosate and still produce quality crops. Needless to say, I disagree with him. I don’t believe that any amount of glyphosate is safe for consumers, farm workers or the earth.
In a very earnest and sincere letter he explained that he believes that the research into “the unintended consequences of glyphosate use is very compelling and should give any open-minded grower reason to change practices.” He goes on to state that the “current Growers versus Concerned Parents and Consumers is counter-productive.”
“With the current approach in which growers are being asked to manage weeds without glyphosate, they are compelled to fight endlessly to avoid what, to them, is a crisis that would endanger their livelihoods and the quality of their families' lives. It becomes very easy for them to ignore all the data and research results that confirm the dangers of glyphosate when accepting it could mean financial ruin.”
It is an argument I have heard before from people equally passionate in their beliefs. I am sharing his words and my response to him (below) with you now because I believe that this period of global evaluation and change is the perfect time for all of us, including farmers, to consider more deeply the needs of our communities and the planet. Our immunity and the need to eat a nutritionally dense diet are more important now than ever - and that all starts with our farmers.
Dear Chemical Company CEO,
I deeply appreciate the respect and courtesy you extend by writing to me. I have many farming advisors, with decades of experience, that are also helping to "wean" farmers off glyphosate and I understand it can take time. It can also be done overnight. A farmer can simply make a choice to stop exposing themselves and others to this clearly very harmful chemical herbicide.
When parents have a child in the hospital with cancer at 3 years old....and keep in mind parents in South Florida where 3.5 million pounds of glyphosate was used per acre between 2000-2012 have a 36% higher risk of finding themselves in that position....they will tell you that there is nothing that could justify the use of glyphosate, no matter how much, how often or for how long.
The fact is that farmers who use regenerative organic farming (zero use of glyphosate) are seeing vast differences in the health of their soil and crops, and this translates into nutrient density, quality of the crop, yield and, in turn, healthier consumers. I am sure our mutual farmer friend has photos to show you of the improvements citrus growers are seeing. It’s wonderful and I applaud his courage and determination to speak the truth.
Farmers have a choice - whether to stop using glyphosate altogether or just stop using so much of it...they make the choice. I disagree that a person is more likely to make changes if you ask them to reduce use instead of stopping altogether...I don't see the motivation.
If advised by one person to "never use a certain babysitter" for my child and by another person to "maybe just don't have that babysitter sit your child so much", I would question the authenticity of the person advising to not use a certain babysitter so much. Perhaps they are not being completely forthright in what could be a dangerous situation. I would not want to ever risk the health and safety of my child. I would never use that babysitter again, no matter what. And I would trust the person who gave me that advice far less. I am sure you understand that our children's lives are nothing to gamble with.
We can no longer afford to justify the use of glyphosate in any amount. It is not true that farmers face financial ruin without glyphosate. Farmers have farmed for thousands of years without glyphosate and they can continue to do so. They are ingenious. Cover crops, regenerative farming...not spraying for cosmetic reasons only...there are solutions. I know you don't agree, but the fact is that there are other methods for farming now that make the use of toxic and harmful chemicals completely unnecessary. And yes, glyphosate herbicides are toxic and harmful, and go into the roots of the plant, the stalks, fruit, and into our food....so applying additional chemical products which degrade it in the soil is not effective in protecting consumers unless ...perhaps....you apply them immediately, and that would negate the intended effects of using the product...wouldn't it?
The time for bold action is now. Compromising is only hurting the farmers. One farmer advisor working in Florida recently told me that most of the citrus growers in Florida are simply allowing their crops to rot on the tree this year. They can't even sell their oranges to Pepsi (Tropicana), which is buying from Mexico instead, because the quality of the fruit is so degraded. This is not because of weeds. It is because of glyphosate herbicide use. This has been proven by farmers who go completely cold turkey off glyphosate and regenerate their soils. They recover the health of their crops. The fact is that the citrus industry is in a crisis because of the use of glyphosate, and like fuel to a fire, pouring in a teaspoon versus a gallon of fuel still stokes the fire. If you want the fire to go out you have to stop adding fuel entirely.
I am very glad you are supporting farmers to use less glyphosate. But I hope you can see that this is a dangerous and risky strategy. Only 1 part per TRILLION has been shown to cause the growth of breast cancer. What if your farmer's friend's wife gets breast cancer? Parts per billion have been shown to cause non alcoholic fatty liver disease and 1 out of 4 Americans now have NAFLD. What if that farmer gets NAFLD? What about the consumers? Your family and future grandchildren? We are in an epidemic, and one of the major contributing factors is glyphosate.
You can see more about the even greater multigenerational affects here.
I am glad that many farmer educators have tools now to remediate the soil and I am greatly interested in promoting that to gardeners and farmers who want a solution to remediate their soil and go organic. We are always interested in sharing about those solutions.
Thank you for your email. I really appreciate your perspective. I know we are all doing the best we can. We moms have a high bar and I know it is not easy.
But we know that farmers are ingenious and can do it!
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Thank you for being a determined voice for nutrient-dense and chemical-free food. From your letter Big Ag/Chemical Industry are beginning to hear the voice of the public. “We want healthy food for our families!”
I would like to suggest that you include an offer to do a live zoom conference with those in their organization(s) wanting to hear concerns from the public and ask them for their willingness to develop a trial study comparing produce from chemical-free methods to chemical methods. Actual growers using natural methods could easily be incorporated into the conference meeting.
The bottom line is – will changing methods make or loose income.
The current organic process of letting the land rest unproductive before planting, for say, three years, means a loss of income. The land can now be treated to neutralize the chemicals in the soil and add the microorganisms with very little loss of production time. Glyphosate can remain dormant in the soil for many years. It must be treated to renew the soil.