dimanche 15 octobre 2017

116- Ban the glyphosate, and then...?


Under this title Mathieu, on the web page Graines de Mane, published on February 15, 2017 a beautiful article, concise, on the questions that leaves in the profession, the possible future ban of glyphosate.

"In the past few days, the serial on the suspension of glyphosate, Monsanto's star herbicide, has restarted. About 40 NGOs launched a European petition on 8 February calling for "the ban on glyphosate, in accordance with the European provisions on pesticides, which prohibit the use of carcinogenic substances in humans". This happens, in particular, after WHO has classified carcinogenic glyphosate and the fuzziness of European authorities on the renewal of its employment authorization in Europe. In the end, in June 2016, the European Union finally decided to extend its use for eighteen months until a new scientific opinion was published.

Pending a possible suspension of authorization of the molecule, the question on farms thus arises in the following way: how to do without glyphosate? Some farmers can do without it or reduce doses, but its status as the best-selling herbicide in the world shows how many agricultural systems depend on it ... And not just intensive farming systems. Thus, some farmers, although engaged in virtuous environmental practices, continue to use this product at low doses. This is the case, for example, with conservation agriculture, which aims to keep a soil constantly covered by vegetation and not to plow the soil to preserve as much as possible its structure, the life it harbors (earthworms and diverse fauna) and limit erosion. These techniques represent a solution to increase soil fertility and thus the long-term sustainability of agricultural systems. By eliminating tillage, farmers improve the health of their soils, but don't have it as a tool for an effective weed management. The success of these crops therefore depends to a large extent on the use of herbicides, including glyphosate.

For these farmers, the removal of glyphosate would thus lead to a technical dead end which could result in the abandonment of their virtuous environmental practices.

The concerns of civil society are perfectly legitimate and farmers are changing their techniques to meet them. Being aware of the effects of agricultural practices on the environment or health makes it possible to enlighten our consumer choices on a daily basis. Knowing how the foods that are found on our plates are produced is therefore paramount. Understand the consequences of citizens' wishes on the reality of the technical functioning of farms as well. The debate over the removal of glyphosate calls for another: the urgent need to find alternatives that allow growers to avoid jumping into the unknown, while responding to new environmental challenges in agriculture. Every day, producers, researchers and agricultural development organizations innovate for more virtuous forms of agriculture. The announced suppression of glyphosate will be all the more effective if sustainable alternatives in agronomic, environmental and economic terms are developed. Banning is one thing, offering alternatives is even better. This is no doubt the real challenge of the actors of agriculture in the years to come. "

Since the publication of this article, much has been said about glyphosate, from the French Minister's announcement of the negative vote of France until the announcement by the same minister of a proposal of a shorter renewal, in order to have time to look for alternatives.
We have also seen the WHO announce that glyphosate is probably not carcinogenic, thus countering the classification of its own agency, the IARC.
We have seen all food safety agencies in the world, and all uncommitted scientists (without private funding or political or ideological pressure) strongly claim that glyphosate, under normal conditions of use, is not risky for health or the environment.
It's also true that it's very difficult to know (and this is moreover carefully calculated), among the thousands of published studies, which of them are objective (a minority), and which of them are financed by one side or the other (or whose scientific committees are oriented, as it was the case for IARC), and which are the majority.

Glyphosate file is a rigged and manipulated file, falsified from the beginning. This herbicide, the most widely used in the world and also the most harmless (according to all objective scientific studies) has become the scapegoat, an unwitting symbol of the fight against GMOs and against Monsanto (who has not owned it since 17 years and generates only +/- 15% of its profits from it https://www.fool.com/investing/2016/05/26/how-much-money-does-monsanto-make-from-roundup.aspx), becoming the target of a vast ideological manipulation.

We could longly argue on the reasons for this incredible propaganda, skilfully using all means at its disposal (radio, television, petitions, demonstrations, social networks and so on) worthy of the darkest hours of the worst dictatorships of the recent history, or closer to us, of the worst citizen or independence movements such as that of Catalonia (very skilful in its perverted role of the Catalan David against the Spanish Goliath), or also the Brexit.

Poster of Chinese propaganda from the time of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, showing intellectuals as responsible for the evils of the country.

To make things clear, let's remember this statement by Mr. Bernard Url, Executive Director of EFSA, who explained on 1 December 2015 to the European Parliament to explain the position of EFSA:

“The letter of 96 persons were mentioned very often. For me this a very good example on how different the two organizations work. We work on glyphosate with 100 scientist from the member states. They see the evidence, they contribute, they challenge, they are in teleconferences, it’s the peer review process, and with these 100 scientists together we were able to produce this.

We did not ask these scientists to sign a letter whether they like or not the outcome. And one member of the parliament put it very rightly. She has said: 96 scientists feel uncomfortable with EFSA’s opinion. And it’s about that. People that have not contributed to the work, that have not seen the evidence most likely, that have not had the time to go into the detail, that are not in the process, have signed a letter of support.

Sorry to say that, for me with this you leave the domain of science, you enter into the domain of lobbying and campaigning, and this is not the way EFSA goes. For me this is the first sign of the Facebook age of science. You have a scientific assessment, you put it on Facebook, you count how many people like it. For us this is no way forward. We produce a scientific opinion, we stand for it, but can’t take into account whether it will be liked or not.”

This is a real problem. If a scientific report runs counter to public opinion, which in general reacts only emotionally, it's immediately vilified, massacred, and scientists (and their supporters and defenders too) suspected or clearly accused of being corrupted by someone.
We are sinking into a decadence that is on the way to ruining our civilization.

But that is not the point.
As far as glyphosate is concerned, the damage is done. It will not be possible to reverse. Remember the Alar affair, which nevertheless took place well before the existence of social networks and of the great fashion of "citizen petitions". We are in a similar manipulation of opinion, but much more serious. http://culturagriculture.blogspot.com.es/2015/02/38-alar-scare.html

The question is no longer whether glyphosate will be banned or not, sooner or later it will be. Rather, it's how farmers will have to adapt to its disappearance, legal or demanded by markets, too frightened by consumers’ opinion, who may turn to other brands if they learn that their food could have been grown with glyphosate.
I have no illusions. I expect to see glyphosate, hitherto allowed in all customer specifications (except for organic production, of course), go to the status of inadvisable or prohibited, with or without legal justification.

However, the future glyphosate substitutes, which will not fail to arrive, will necessarily be 5 to 6 times more expensive. That's normal, that's the rule. But it's considerably changing the data of the problem for farmers, who often have a hard time making a profit on their jobs.

It's therefore very urgent to find alternatives. I hope the European Commission will have the intelligence not to abandon the molecule in too short a time, and will promote the search for alternative methods.

A very interesting article on the subject was recently published in the Christian periodical "La Croix" https://www.la-croix.com/Sciences-et-ethique/Sciences-et-ethique/Comment-passer-glyphosate-2017-10-03-1200881487
It shows the interesting testimony of a young French farmer, deeply convinced and involved in a new conception of agriculture. He has worked there for a long time and explains:
“I was told I was mad, that I could not succeed. But after several years of work and adjustments, that’s it: I had good results last year, I expect them to confirm but I am confident.”
Yet he is aware that this transition is difficult:
"I did not get there overnight. And if I remain convinced that we'll be able to avoid the use of herbicides with plant cover, a brutal ban would be a mistake."

I invite my non-European readers not to doubt it. If glyphosate is banned in the European Union, the world's largest food market, the rest of the world will also come to it, in the short or long term.
The search for alternative solutions will help safeguard virtuous farming techniques, such as conservation agriculture and integrated production.

It's not permissible, for dark ideological reasons, to question everything that is a guarantee of food security, food quality and safety, and reducing the effects of agriculture on global warming.

European agriculture is the most efficient, the healthiest and most respectful in the world. People come from all over the world to learn the methods and techniques used.
It will continue to evolve and adapt to all situations, as it has always done. But any profound change requires time, training, costs, research, and investment.

Many crucial questions remain to be made, many essential points have probably not been envisaged, or not enough deeply.
Will European agriculture lose competitiveness in front of non-Community competition?
Will the players of commercial food channels play the game of rising costs, respecting the cost prices of farmers?
Will consumers be prepared to accept a probable increase in the prices of their food?
Will the markets prefer to buy non-EU products, cheaper but often less safe, in order to preserve their margins without increasing consumer prices?

The future of the quality of European food is at stake, but not many people seem to realize it.

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