14 May 2010

Allotment plots allocated: to spray or not?

Well the allocation has taken place - names and plots pulled from pots and then matched randomly - next step is to firm out the actual plot spaces as they need moving a little on the site....it is poss that we could be on the site by June....we'll see....

Photo: Allotment last week - this Saturday we are slightly adjusting the areas the plots cover

We also had a talk in The Star from the Global Bee Project - but more of that in a separate blog entry...One big debate has been whether to spray or not the site - it means waiting for plenty of green growth of the weeds - already bindweed coming through - a spray of glysophate then waiting for another flush of green for a second spray. Then the site would be organic.

Well the debate has raged over the weeks but a decision was taken last night that three or four full sized plots would not be sprayed but the paths and rest would be. The votes went 7 not to spray to 11 sprayers with 2 abstentions. As a 'not sprayer' I am delighted we can go forward without the chemical at least on some plots - but I recognise this is a very serious challenge as parts of the site have had very considerable amounts of bindweed and brambles....I'll let you know if I have made a mistake!!

Photo: site during clearance and burning all the brambles

Here are some of the comments made in various email debates - I have removed names and some of the comments have been abbreviated but hopefully still give a sense of the issues we considered (pink for no spraying, yellow for spraying) - there have also been lots of conversations in and out of the meetings - anyway here is a taster:

I looked up RoundUp and the first two Googled are Wikipedia and GuardingOurEarth.com, and both were pretty damning on its use. http://www.guarding-our-earth.com/aggrand/roundup.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundup Evidently it is highly toxic to humans, and Monsanto's own tests found it in lettuce, carrots, and barley planted one year after glyphosate treatment. Also I found this posting: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/organic/msg0323034614564.html No one who claims to be an organic gardener would use Round Up or any Glyphosate produce. The USEPA Water Quality Division is finding glyphosate in the water we drink and wash in. Glyphosate is present in many soils. This article may be of some interest. "MONSANTO IS POISONING US: HOW MANY STUDIES DOES IT TAKE? New research from France has confirmed previous studies that Monsanto's Roundup, the most commonly used herbicide in the world, is much more toxic that Monsanto admits. The study indicates that at levels 100 times lower than the recommended use in agriculture, Roundup herbicide causes reproductive damages and endocrine disruption. In other related news, the FDA Office of Plant and Dairy Foods has stated that half of the non-organic produce they have tested in grocery stores contains traceable residues of various pesticides, including Roundup. http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/pregnancy060305.cfm

It may be advertised as safe, but then it is made by Monsanto whose track record is lousy. Its use won't achieve anything but stop the soil being organic, and adding chemicals to the food we grow. Surely it would be better to start planting sooner and weeding sooner than to miss this year because of spraying and waiting for the chemical to leach away from the soil and into Ruscombe brook.

I contacted the Soil Association who categorically stated that there was no way that they would condone the use of Round Up, and that no-one from the Soil Association would have OKed its use.

The Soil Association person I spoke to last year (can't remember the name), when I explained the allotments background and the fact that this was not a registered SA Allotment site, said use a once only application of glyphosate, if only to save years of labour getting rid of eg brambles and other persistent weeds. It is unlike most of their registered sites which have come from pasture ie with no persistent weeds. The reasoning for their and my support for this (despite my hatred of glyphosate) is that much as the site looks wonderful now, when we get the first glimpse of rain and more warmth, up will come not just annual weeds, but brambles etc.

I have concentrated on recently published articles (apart from one from 2000 which is widely cited) and systematic reviews which summarise the many studies that have been published in the world literature. I have only looked at papers in English. It is necessary to distinguish research looking at impacts on humans deriving from normal use and deliberate self-harm. I have included a paper on the latter however for information. I have excluded anything on deliberate spraying on water environments for algal control as that is not what is contemplated. I have not looked at studies in vivo or animal models as they raise research questions rather than answer them. When considering the effects on the environment it seems you have to consider the confounding effects of glyphosates on habitat destruction as well as their toxic effects. Of course we have destroyed an entire local ecological system and the fact that this is likely to have more effect on local wildlife is illustrated in the examples from coca production in Columbia. The only word of caution I would draw attention to is that the scientific community in this area do not seem to be as rigorous about ensuring the presence or absence of any potential conflicts of interest are transparently stated in the editorial content. This is now normal practice in biomedical journals. In conclusion I have found nothing in the scientific literature that would make me lose sleep over the careful use of Roundup.

I have no concerns re the sensible application of this chemical - it will rot away or whatever it does and not leave a lasting legacy - this is a chemical widely used in farming and I have probably consumed lots of it already in the non-organic veg I have eaten!

Photo: one of the site clearance days

I guess it all depends on how we want to go forward. I want to grow organically, and I want to eat organically. For me growing organically means not using chemicals that damage the soil and the environment (that it does so is not disputed). It also means not using chemicals that could be harmful to me and my family. If I choose to grow and produce organically then that is the choice I make. It makes it harder to control weeds, but after living with bindweed for 5 years and using every chemical under the sun to no evail, don't think that the use of Round Up means the end of weeds and bindweed.....there are many organic farms out there who successfully grow organically, and haven't had to resort to Round Up. And I want to get the plot sorted and start growing, not leave it for the weeds to have all the fun, and then nuke everything. We would have wasted the whole summer. I know people who call themselves vegetarians and yet eat chicken. I just couldn’t do that.

More about the allotment coming soon - but let me finish this blog with a video of the creation and launch of Woolacombe Allotments in Devon - we did think about whether we could also produce a video: www.woolacombeallotments.org.uk

1 comment:

Philip Booth said...

More debate:

Tests by the Henry Doubleday Research Association in England have found that a Mexican marigold, Tagetes minuta, is remarkably effective against some very tough weeds such as quackgrass, wild oats, field bindweed, ground ivy and plantain. Avant Gardener, April 1998.

This is also fairly comprehensive