Category Archives: Pesticides

Information, news and opinion about the use of pesticides in agriculture and horticulture.

Study Shows ‘Frightening’ Decline of Insects and Spiders

Yet another study showing that insect numbers have declined. This time it is a ten year study which found that insect biomass declined by 40% in grasslands. The full article can be found here.

Should we be worried? Quite simply a massive YES because we depend of flying insects for pollination. Also, because the decline is down to the use of pesticides in food production and although the companies that make them will argue that they are safe nobody can convince me that ingesting eating small amounts of poison on a daily basis can be good for us.

We are locked into an agricultural system that is driven by supermarkets who control everything from seed to the checkout. The way food is grown depends on total control of the environment and the elimination of everything that could affect profits. This is one of the consequences of the cheapest possible food – we destroy the environment that keeps us alive.

Things have to change and quickly. We need to move to a different way of growing food. If not,  the whole system will collapse and leave us with nothing.

 

Natural pest control

I am often asked if homemade sprays are safer alternatives to commercial pesticides. My answer is always NO! Apart from being illegal in the EU you never of the unintended consequences of making a spray.

The real answer is to create a garden that achieves a natural balance and accept that every year there will be some losses. In other words, stay cool and work with ‘nature’.

In our old garden we did achieve that balance. It took a while but eventually we had few problems. In the first year Gooseberry Saw Fly stripped a bush but never they came back. There were occasional black fly infestations on broad beans but nothing serious. We grew a potato variety called Sarpo Mira which never had blight – it is the most blight resistant spud in existence and was bred many years ago using conventional techniques.

Part of the reason for the lack of aphids was the nettles that surrounded the plot. They the perfect place for Ladybirds to lay their eggs early in the season. Ladybird larvae are voracious predators of aphids. They look scary but they really are your friend.

 

Our Lawns Are Killing Us

The amount of chemicals used on lawns is staggering. In the US it can be nearly four times that used on agricultural land. The only reason is to make lawns look nice. Visual appearance is the key factor!

There are no figures for the UK, but it is likely that they are very similar. The British are obsessed with lawns and spend millions every year to get the right effect. The typical front garden is still a lawn with flower borders.

Grass grows and lawns need to be mowed, usually every weekend. The first signs of spring used to be marked by the appearance of migratory birds but now it is the song the lawn mower and the strimmer that heralds the new season.

It takes a lot of work to keep the grass looking pristine. That includes the application of chemicals including selective weed killers, insecticides to kill unwanted bugs and fungicides. They may be combined into one product under the ‘weed and feed’ banner. You can also add cats and dog repellents to avoid unwanted dead patches of grass.

Are Lawn chemicals toxic?
There is evidence to show that garden pesticides are dangerous especially to children. In the US many homeowners have lawn care packages which includes mowing, strimming and the applications of chemicals. In some areas local bylaws (ordinances) insist that front garden (yards) look pristine all the time.

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, (See the PDF here) 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.

A study in the US used markers were added to common lawn treatments to track where it went. Scans of the homes of participants found chemical residues on door handles, floors and carpets. What was even more concerning they found the markers in the stomachs of children who had played on the lawns.

While the results are shocking, they are hardly surprising. If you spread pesticides on your lawn and then walk, sit, or play on them residues will be transferred.

Lawn pesticide fact sheet

The big questions are why does the visual appearance of a patch of grass outweigh the health effects of using chemicals? And, why is there such a strong desire to conform to an antiquated definition of a nice garden? It is rooted in a post war return to decorative gardens after using them to grow food. That created the huge garden centre and garden products industry that we now have.

“Ornamental horticulture and landscaping in the UK made an estimated £24.2billioncontribution to national GDP in 2017. 

Around 568,700 jobs across the country are supported by ornamental horticulture and landscaping, equivalent to 1 in every 62 jobs!

Market information – garden statistics

There is a move to grow food in front gardens. In some US cities the rules have been relaxed and people are growing veg ‘out font’.

In the UK there is generally nothing to stop homeowners growing whatever they want except the usual quiet disapproval of neighbours but it takes a certain amount of guts to ‘rock the boat’ and stand out as being different.

Growing food in small metre square beds

The other alternative is to grow wildflowers. They can be sown in irregular swathes across the lawn or replace all the grass. The big advantages are no more mowing, strimming and no need for weed killers and other toxic chemicals!

 

Germany banning glyphosate by the end of 2023

The German government just announced it will be banning glyphosate by the end of 2023 in order to protect the environment and the health of the public.

This follows on from research  by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) that concluded that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic. The report also stated:

IARC also concluded that there was “strong” evidence for genotoxicity, both for “pure” glyphosate and for glyphosate formulations.

Glyphosate based weed killers are available in UK Supermarkets. It has become just another domestic chemical like washing up liquid and carpet shampoo. Consumers need to be aware of the risks they take especially when it is used on lawns where children play.

Sales of pesticides have become so normalised that it was even shelved next to food in a local branch of Tesco earlier this year.

It is time for a Europe wide ban, including the UK!

More French cities to become pesticide free

It is good to see that France gets it! While in the UK we face the real possibility of even more pesticides in and on food to satisfy the US.

“In France, many local authorities have banned the use of pesticides near residential areas, including Parisian and Dijon. This is a precautionary measures, and as of this month, Paris, Lille, Nantes, Grenoble, and Clermont-Ferrand jointly announced that these areas would become pesticide-free. The increasing number of anti-pesticide orders being implemented in common housing areas is …” Continue reading

Broccoli Is Dying. Corn Is Toxic. Long Live Microbiomes!

Do you want the cheapest food possible? If so this is what you get: “Data going back to 1940, as reported by Eco Farming Daily, shows: “The level of every nutrient in almost every kind of food has fallen between 10 and 100 percent.”

This is not anything new, it is well documented and we have mentioned it before – “A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991.” see the PDF is here.

There is a stark choice: you either go for the cheapest food and kid yourself that it is good value for money or you buy decent food that is not produced using high inputs of chemical fertiliser and chemical pesticides  –  organic food!

See this piece in Scientific American

Glyphosate/Roundup Decimates Microbes in Soils and the Human Gut

There has been lots of research over the years that showed that glyphosate does not break down on contact with soil, as was claimed. It now looks as if it also damages soil and the human gut.

The latest study was carried out by a team led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen. The researchers suggest that glyphosate use could be behind the recent spike in gut disease noted in industrialized nations that genetic reasons alone have failed to explain.

People ask me why I grow/buy organic food, this is the answer.  And it is on sale in many supermarkets next to household cleaning products and sometimes next to food. It should be banned.

Glyphosate from Monsanto’s Roundup Decimates Microbes in Soils and the Human Gut – New Science

The British countryside is being killed by herbicides and insecticides – can anything save it?

“From orchids and moths to hedgehogs and toads, our wildflowers and wildlife are dying out. Making the meadows safe again is a huge challenge – but there are glimmers of hope”

The Guardian – 31 May 2018

Gloomy prospect … meadow flowers in Upper Teesdale. Photograph: Kevin Rushby/The Guardian

What has been obvious this year is the lack of insect strike on the windscreen of cars! Some say that it is a good thing, but it emphasises the huge decline in insect numbers and should sound alarm bells. The link to insecticides is obvious yet there is no response from government.

Pesticides are now sold in supermarkets alongside cleaning products. A sign of how normalised they have become. This was evident in a local branch of Tesco where pesticides were shelved next to food!

In the garden it is lawns that get the full treatment. In Spring each year there are endless TV adverts show ways to blast weeds with the latest product. For a pesticde free lawn, see this site

With climate change happening now there will be a huge impact on food supplies. Keep a small area of unsprayed grass but use the rest to grow food!

Things you can do:

  • Make a pledge to become a pesticide free household, especially if you have young children.
  • Think seriously about growing some food. Start with one metre square raised beds, all the information you need it here.
  • Become more informed about pesticides in food and how to avoid them.
  • Check out the Pesticide Action Network for more information.

 

 

What are organic standards?

Common questions about choosing organic food are; how do you know it is organic? and Is it worth it?

To be sure that it is organic look for the certification labels.

The UK has a rigorous certification scheme run by the soil association, some say it is the best in the world! It is illegal to say or sell something as organic if it is not certified.

Is it worth the extra? That depends on how much you really value the food you eat and your health. Non-organic food will contain pesticide residues at varying levels. The government set a maximum daily dose for each of them but they have never faced the problem of multiple chemical residues.

The ‘cocktail effect’ of pesticides has long-been recognised as an area of concern in the UK. Little has been done to understand the human health impacts that may occur due to continued exposure of the multiple pesticide residues that consumers eat on a daily basis.

From; http://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen/ accessed 20/07/2019 07330

If you value your health and want to eat good food then choose certified organic produce!