Anger for yellow fields: ‘We are surrounded by a cocktail of pesticides’

“Again that horrible glyphosate, when will this finally be banned?”, “Glad I don’t live next door”, or: “Ban that idiocy!”

Anyone who searches for the word glyphosate on social media gets the impression that the Dutch are completely done using the pesticide. Yet a lot of farmers still reach for this substance, which Monsanto marketed as Roundup in the 1970s.

The farmers are also allowed to use it, because glyphosate is not banned. In fact; it may be approved for another ten years in the fall. Does this mean nothing is wrong?

More on that later. First things first: what kind of substance is glyphosate and what is it used for? Glyphosate is a herbicide: it is a pesticide against plants. You also have fungicides against fungi and insecticides against, yes, insects.

But glyphosate is thus used against plants that are undesirable. Often it concerns grass that the farmer himself sown a few months earlier as a so-called green manure.

In short: green manure is done to improve the soil. The grass (ryegrass, or a clover for example) adds humus and nitrogen. It also prevents erosion and leaching of fertilizers. In this way valuable minerals remain accessible.

All well and good, but in the months of March and April, it has to be removed because the land has to be prepared for sowing or planting. Glyphosate offers a solution, because plowing dead grass is easier. In addition, the weeds do not grow back: the substance is absorbed into the plant, so the entire plant, including the root, dies.

The country will then look something like the one on the right in the photo:

Those yellow fields, they stand out, maybe a little too much? LTO Nederland recently advised farmers to dig up the yellow sod quickly. “As an agricultural sector, let’s make sure that we don’t lose our credit,” said a mailing, in which, incidentally, we were asked to exercise restraint in the use of the substance. “If you do choose to spray green manure, then work in the crop as soon as possible. Depending on the temperature, this can be done from as little as a week.”

Why do farmers continue to do this? Spraying with glyphosate is a effective way to control weeds once every few years. An additional advantage is that less tillage is required in subsequent years, which is beneficial for the soil. Proponents also warn: A sudden ban could endanger food security.

‘Probably carcinogenic’

Because the call to ban glyphosate is getting louder and louder. Although the use of this substance is permitted by the EU, there is increasing doubt about the harmful effects of the substance for humans and animals. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic.”

According to the RIVM, there are also general indications that growers have a greater chance of developing diseases that affect the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s† Because it is difficult to point to one substance as the cause, the institute proposes to improve testing guidelines.

Bas Bloem, professor of neurology at Radboudumc, is convinced that farmers and local residents run a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s. He sees the disease remarkably often in farmers and in the vicinity of farms. These pesticides come through the food chain also in our food† For example, last June, glyphosate was found in wine for sale in Dutch supermarkets.

Ctgb: ‘It is being closely examined’

All worrying sounds. How is it possible that farmers are allowed to use this? At the Board for the Authorization of Plant Protection Products and Biocides (Ctgb), spokesperson Hans van Boven says that the product is safe: “We know a great deal about glyphosate about what it does in the environment and how it spreads. It is being examined closely.”

According to him, the relationship with Parkinson’s is “not likely based on what we know now.” “In rural areas where pesticides are used, you do not see that people suffer more from diseases,” he says. And glyphosate in wine? The amount is so little that we don’t have to worry. For the time being, the product simply meets all the guidelines.

Professor Geissen: ‘Tests not up-to-date’

We hear a completely different sound from the Wageningen professor Violette Geissen. Geissen is project leader of Sprint, a research project funded by the European Commission into the consequences of pesticide use. “The tests carried out to bring pesticides to the market are not up to date at all. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is now urgently calling for tests to be developed that reflect the real risks.”

Testing policy has hardly changed since the 1980s, she explains. “The Ctgb says: everything is fine, yes according to the test it is fine. If you have diabetes and you have your cholesterol checked and it is good, is there nothing wrong? The current tests only look at a very limited number of possible effects, but not, for example, the effects on the resistance of the soil to diseases and pests, because the guidelines are not for that.”

The professor is surprised that so little is being tested for all these effects. She likens it to buying a car. “Then we work with the precautionary principle. You know for 100 percent that it brakes. With pesticides they have turned it around. Harmless until proven otherwise.”

Meanwhile, we are “permanently surrounded by a cocktail of pesticides,” she says. “In the air, in the water and in the soil. It’s also in the food we eat and the drink we drink.”

Because that is what we do know by now: more than 80 percent of European soil contains residues of pesticides. The most present is glyphosate and the main breakdown product AMPA (46 percent). Or is that too much? We don’t know: there are no limit values.

Glyphosate kills beneficial fungi and bacteria

According to the professor, it is harmful. Glyphosate acts like an antibiotic, she explains. It kills beneficial fungi and bacteria in the soil. It does not kill other pathogenic fungi, they expand because they have less competition. “That is why farmers must use more pesticides against fungi. All of this is not included in the Ctgb study.”

The remains of glyphosate may also kill bacteria in the lungs and gut flora of humans. If so, our resistance decreases and we are more susceptible to disease.

Another route through which people ingest glyphosate residues is through the air. Geissen has recently conducted research into this. “It binds to particulate matter particles. In this way it spreads throughout the country. You see it on the windows and on the cars, we breathe it in. But it is not included in monitoring programs. Studies in France and Germany show that glyphosate can be found everywhere in particulate matter, even very far from places where it is used. We measure it in 10 European countries. The direct effects are completely unknown.”

Whether glyphosate will be banned or not, she doesn’t even care that much. “That depends on how strong the lobby of the companies is. There are 2000 pesticides, one more or less doesn’t matter that much.”

Cheap food through mass production

Her message is much broader: please be careful with the use of pesticides. “We should ask ourselves: is this what we want? Mass production ensures that consumers can now eat very cheaply. But the health damage that we incur and that society is now paying for, is not taken into account.”

The Netherlands could take Switzerland and Austria as an example, says the professor, where farmers are encouraged to take the step towards sustainable agriculture. There are many alternatives that make pesticides superfluous, she says. From deploying robust breeds, robotics to using strokenteelt† In the latter, the farmer provides multiple crops on a plot, increasing biodiversity and making plants less vulnerable. “There are plenty of options.”

Who Approves Glyphosate?

At the end of this year, all EU countries will vote on whether to approve glyphosate for 10 years. A whole process has preceded that. This is coordinated by EFSA, a kind of European NVWA. Four countries are on a committee preparing the inspection of glyphosate: the Netherlands, France, Hungary and Sweden. For the Netherlands, the admissions authority Ctgb does this.

Where are we standing right now? The applicants, a consortium of producers, have applied for marketing authorization for glyphosate. The application was assessed on the basis of various criteria. “A public consultation was also held at the beginning of this year,” explains Hans van Boven of the Ctgb. “Scientists and organizations have been allowed to comment. Questions that arise from this are now being answered by the four assessing countries. The consortium was told: based on what we see now, there are still some questions. They are now up to them. answering.”

Preliminary conclusion

Nevertheless, the preliminary conclusion is that there are no risks, says Margriet Mantingh of Pesticide Action Network Netherlands (PAN Nederland). She and three other organizations filed objections earlier this year. They are currently being looked at, but she doesn’t have much hope.

The biggest objection for Mantingh is that the inspection bodies rely on studies by the industry. “That is their basis. Other studies are not included because they would not have been done via the research guidelines.”

Once the answers from the glyphosate producers have been received, it will be up to EFSA to summarize all that information into an advice. That goes to Brussels, where all countries can vote.

Source: RTL Nieuws by

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