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Soiled reputation

In the Mail this morning I read about Giant Hogweed, a particularly nasty plant that can cause horrific burns that take years to heal. I also read that the plant is easily controlled with glyphosate.

This afternoon I read that the Soil Association is trying to ban glyphosate.

Rotten timing for that announcement guys.

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Reader Comments (41)

The Soiled Association wants to ban glyphosate because it might cause cancer, although they have looked for evidence and not found any.

The sun is proven to cause skin cancer, yet they don't try to ban it.

Everyone I know who has undergone chemotherapy (including me), has drunk water. Go figure.

Jul 15, 2015 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Glyphosate is already banned in europe and will be in the UK. Thats what being a member of a communist regime means

Jul 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Of course they want to ban it: It's a useful 'kemikal' that is biodegradable and widely used.

Jul 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

The cynic will also point out that, with the patent expired, Glyphosate is also a bit too cheap for some manufacturer's liking.

Jul 15, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Segolene Royal banned its sale last week in France by decree. I immediately went out to stock up.
The chemical was originally developed for medical reasons to treat heavy metal poisoning.
The plant actually dies from fungal or bacterial infection as the inability to use metal ions interferes with the cell wall. Treated plants will still grow in sterilized soil.

Jul 15, 2015 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered Commentersrga

Glyphosate is already banned in europe and will be in the UK. Thats what being a member of a communist regime means
Jul 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards
Would you be good enough to cite the precise EU Directive for this claim, Stephen, because I cannot find it.
The current license expires on Dec 31 and according to this report from Reuters no decision on re-licensing will be made until all the evidence has been considered.
If it is banned then you can point the finger at gardeners who seem incapable of abiding by the instructions on the bottle and insist that "a little bit more" won't do any harm. You might also like to take the matter up with farmers who have taken to using Round-Up in extra-dilute form for purposes for which it was not intended including regulating the ripening of their wheat crop in order to keep the millers (and therefore the bakers and therefore T*s*o) happy with a consistent standard of crop throughout the season. Not many people know that and those that do tend not to speak about it all that much.
Or you could blame the Whitehall mafia which long since stopped bothering to fight Britain's corner in Brussels.

PS srga is correct. Royale banned its sale in France a week or two ago but there is no EU-wide ban and I understand that Monsanto is prepared to take the French government to court though probably without effect.

Jul 15, 2015 at 2:14 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The cynic will also point out that, with the patent expired, Glyphosate is also a bit too cheap for some manufacturer's liking.

CFCs and patents, remember that wheeze? woz banned but funnily enough the ozone hole is still there in winter - et quelle surprise?

Glyphosate, if push comes to shove the corporate blob [the big German chemical companies] in the EU always wins after all they [corporate blob] run the shop, of course hand in glove with the colleagues. And Britain always caves in to Brussels just ask 'cast iron and Jackboot up my arse' Dave - another €million for Greece "no probs Jean Claude and Angie baby, luv and x's".

Jul 15, 2015 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

No idea where srga is getting his/her information from. Glyphosate interferes with the plant's metabolism by blocking shikimic acid production - this means it can't biosynthesise key amino acids - i.e. it can't make protein any more, so it dies.

It is targeted by the utterly disreputable Soil Association and fellow travellers simply because it was discovered by Monsanto and is therefore apparently the spawn of Satan. The fact that it is off patent (and has been for decades) means anybody can make it and sell it now escapes these absurd propagandists. And this also means that Monsanto don't have much to gain from an obscenely expensive re-registration process, other than the use of their brand name 'Roundup'. which still sells at a premium over the generic stuff. Nurofen vs, ibuprofen, if you like.

And of course conspiring to deceive about it and having it banned (faking it worked for neonicotinoids, after all) means that it's no longer available to use on glyphosate-resistant ('Roundup Ready') GM crops.

Which also suits the SA's vile, anti-humanitarian mission:

More expensive, poorer quality food for those who can afford it. The rest can just starve.

Jul 15, 2015 at 2:47 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Giant Hogweed has been known for the nasty effects of its sap since I was in my teens. Anyone else remember Genesis - Nursery Cryme - Return of The Giant Hogweed. According to the lyrics it was immune to all our herbicidal battering. For those too young to remember Peter Gabriel and his masks.

Genesis Return of the Giant Hogweed

Jul 15, 2015 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Segolene Royal banned its sale last week in France by decree. I
Jul 15, 2015 at 2:13 PM srga

I think it was more than a week ago.

I remember reading at the time something like "how the ban will be inforced is unclear". Last time I looked in the gardening section of the (Normandy) supermarket, there were several different makes still there on the shelves.

Jul 15, 2015 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Mike Jackson is correct, roundup can be used to even up a crop pre harvest, it is also used to control couch grass in the crop and generally the rate can be from 1/2 to full depending on how bad the couch is. Harvest cannot start until at least a week after spraying and since the crop is dead because of the roundup it may be prone to shedding (grain loss) if harvest is delayed.

Jul 15, 2015 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Lyon

Segolene Royal banned its sale last week in France by decree. I
Jul 15, 2015 at 2:13 PM srga

Not according to the reports I've read - she asked that garden centres no longer display it on open sales racks. Even those news reports that claim it was banned do not say so in the detail - more lies-by-headline journalism.

The Indy can be relied on to lie in the headlines, but gets the details right:

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal told France 3 television on Sunday: "France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides."

"I have asked garden centres to stop putting Monsanto's Roundup on sale" in self-service aisles, she added.

Jul 15, 2015 at 3:48 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

OT - Roy Spencer has a new estimate for ECS, based on Karl et al's latest pause-busting data set.

It comes out at an ECS of approx 1.3C

Details here:

Jul 15, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

The Guardian reports that the link to cancer has been endorsed by the WHO.

It comes from rat tests and a correlation of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, in farmworkers.

Not sure what concentrations they are talking about, though.

Jul 15, 2015 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

Segolene also proposed the French boycott Nutella, making her the laughing stock of a country which loves Nutella. Everywhere I saw over the border in Italy (where the French go shopping for better value than at home) huge 5kg jars given dedicated shelf space. Free advertising for Ferrero Rocher, from our dim-witted eco-lady with a permanent smile.

Jul 15, 2015 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterLondon Calling

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal told France 3 television on Sunday: "France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides."

Except as its a herbicide Roundup is not covered by that statement ;)

Jul 15, 2015 at 5:55 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Pace Guido Fawkes, it's a herbicide, not a pesticide.

Jul 15, 2015 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterContendo

M Courtney.

There is no evidence for carcinogenic activity at any concentration.

A group affiliated to WHO (The International Agency for Research on Cancer) called it "probably carcinogenic" in a press release earlier this year, but has not revealed what evidence they have based this on. Their report is yet to be published, but a number of governments in Europe have announced bans for non-commercial use without any statement or background from any of their own regulatory authorities (not sure what constitutes non-commercial).

As glyphosate was originally developed by Monsanto, it has had the most high level of scrutiny from the anti-Mondanto crowd, with no evidence of any harmful effects. One study which showed harm to the skin frogs turned out to be because of the wetting agent that was included with the compound. Animal studies from Russia were so appallingly performed that they showed nothing.

As an agricultural compound it is very environmentally friendly as it breaks down pretty quickly in the soil (days/weeks) which makes it very popular with farmers as they don't have issues with residue affecting following crops. It is now widely used as an in-crop herbicide when coupled with herbicide-tolerant lines of corn, soybean and canola which has massively increased the use of no-till agriculture in North America. [No-till (or zero-till) is when you plant the seed directly into unploughed fields and wait until the crop seed germinates before using the herbicide to clean up any weeds at the critical stage of the crop. After this, you can pretty much let the crop plant take care of itself. It is a popular method of cultivation not just because of the reduced amount of work, but it also improves soil structure.] Glyphoste isn't the only herbicide used for no-till, but it is a cheap simple compound which has been very popular with farmers, in spite of quite high licensing costs for the seed varieties which are tolerant to the herbicide.

As with all widely used herbicides, there are now some weeds which are showing resistance and regulatory authorities now require herbicide tolerance management plans when approving crop varieties tolerant to glyphosate (and any other herbicide tolerant crop).

Jul 15, 2015 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

"I have asked garden centres to stop putting Monsanto's Roundup on sale"

That sounds like she's having a pop at Monsanto, rather than glyphosate. She does know that other glyphosates are available, I suppose..?

Jul 15, 2015 at 7:17 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Mike Jackson is correct: Glyphosate is currently licensed throughout the EU at least until the end of 2015 for both agriculture and amateur use. If there was French decree banning its sale, it would be illegal under Commission regulations, and would lead to the French government facing sanctions if it were so.

So I think Steve ta's comment that she asked garden centres not to put it open display is the correct story.

The current concern regarding glyphosate comes as a result of a recent evaluation by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer, which provisionally classified it as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'. Unfortunately (speaking as a toxicologist), IARC evaluations are largely dependent on the quality of the 'experts' invited to a particular meeting.

They have yet to release the names of those responsible for this particular evaluation, but the general view in the wider scientific community is that the review of glyphosate was a complete dogs-breakfast, based on a very selective use of the data available. I understand Monsanto are sponsoring an independent review of the IARC evaluation, with regard to an appeal.

Jul 15, 2015 at 7:33 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

As far as I can tell, scouting around Medline, there is no significant new information, but there seem to have been some alarmist type meta-analyses of previous studies. As far as the human data goes I get the impression that they have been of the type of self-answered questionnaires to 'determine' possible exposure (such as "people who own less than 100 sheep" as a control group) to a large number of different agrochemicals.

From these are drawn rather tenuous statistical associations between likely exposure and NHL incidence (which is itself associated with the incidence of Celiac disease, which one paper stated had increased since the advent of pesticides/herbicides in the mid/late 1900s.)

Without the full report being published it seems difficult to comment in detail, but it bears all the hallmarks of the usual chemophobic activism.

Jul 15, 2015 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Further to my previous post, as well as being the patent-holder for glyphosate, Monsanto are a major developer of GMO crops which they have mainly developed to be resistant to said herbicide. The suspicions are that the negative IARC evaluation was due to individuals with leanings towards the green blob - no use having a glyphosate-resistant crop if you can't treat it with glyphosate.

Jul 15, 2015 at 8:04 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Good point, Salopian, I hadn't thought of that.

Jul 15, 2015 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

We had a giant hogweed just up the road from us. My wife, who is a microbiologist and quite the plant expert, recognized it right away and we got the township to remove it and nuke the area around where it grew :P

Jul 15, 2015 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

BTW; the photo-toxic effects of Giant Hogweed are not limited to the species itself, but can involve most of the parsley family (Apiaceae), some people are more sensitive than others. Fortunately, reactions are due to skin contact rather than ingestion, as celery is one of the other major culprits, as is the herb rue (Ruta graveolans).

Jul 15, 2015 at 9:59 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Is there a pesticide suitable for the Soil Association?

French farmers and gardeners would do well to ban Ms Royal from political intervention in things she knows nothing about. This will give her lots of spare time to do something useful.

Jul 15, 2015 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

GC: As far as I'm aware there is no pesticide authorised within the EU to deal with the Soil Association.

Jul 15, 2015 at 10:56 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Salopian, I think consumers are realising that buying organic food is very harmful to bank accounts.

A local farmer spent over 10 years waiting for the financial miracle of growing organically, and he admitted making the switch for commercial reasons based on predictions made by people with vested interests.

He has gone back to traditional techniques, using chemical pest controls, and fertilizers. Everything is more healthy. Unfortunately this includes the rabbit population. Rabbits, when offered the choice, prefer to grow and multiply quicker, when not eating organic food.

So if rabbits know the difference between good and not so good rabbit food, why should shoppers pay more for stuff rabbits choose not to eat?

Jul 15, 2015 at 11:49 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I worked in a hospital for decades and knew the problems with Giant Hogweed 30 years ago (I was also very keen on studying local wildflowers). Here, children liked the Hogweed's hollow stem to use as a pea-shooter with terribly dangerous results. It is still taking doctors by surprise.
It is by no means the only non-native, decorative plant that took to our climate to become a major pest.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Smith


The UK made the best part of $14bn out of the Greek bailout, so a bit of bit of flexibility on the EFSF side wouldn't be entirely inappropriate.

Jul 16, 2015 at 3:00 AM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

GC: "Is there a pesticide suitable for the Soil Association?"

Mechanical means are probably more effective - a thorough harrowing followed by a heavy roller.

Jul 16, 2015 at 4:30 AM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

@4:30 “Mechanical means … “

Years ago we had bindweed (like a ground hugging vine of small morning glory). Here is a link:

Basically says cut it off, over, and over, and over --- repeat as necessary.

We had a small walk-behind tiller. After about 10 minutes the unit would not do its job. The vines wrapped around the tines until they were useless. Then we cut the vines away and started again. Repeat.
The next day we bought Round Up, sprayed the plants, and moved on to a more productive project.

Jul 16, 2015 at 4:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

The effects are undoubtedly very unpleasant, but personally I find the plant itself rather handsome and imposing.

There's something majestic and impressive about its sheer size. Flower-heads a yard across? Magnificent.

And it's much more common than the Mail seems to realise; I know places where there are whole fields full of it.

Jul 16, 2015 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

Jul 15, 2015 at 7:17 PM | Jamesp
I wouldn't bank on it

Jul 15, 2015 at 10:29 PM | Golf charlie
With all the time in the world Segolene Royale wouldn't achieve anything of worth.

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Golf Charlie
Your farming friend is now actually delaying the awful fate that awaits us because organic farming has increased greenhouse gas emissions

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Golf Charlie

A cynical comment from a Canadian blog

"What is the difference between a regular farmer and an organic farmer?

A ponytail"

Jul 16, 2015 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian


"Is there a pesticide suitable for the Soil Association?"

It would have to be very concentrated.. :-)

Jul 16, 2015 at 10:55 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

We used to have an allotment in the UK and most of us on the site tried to be as organic as possible without making a fetish of it.
One of our members was a plant biologist who did believe in organic growing and he was asked by a newcomer taking over a ... shall we say 'neglected' .... plot what advice he would give to someone wanting to prepare the site for organic crops.
His reply was succinct; "Spray the whole lot with Roundup!"
In fact this was the route that most of us took — once. If the plot was properly maintained and worked there was never the need to do it again and properly used (ie according to the instructions for dilution and weather conditions - the point I was making in my previous post) there isn't (and as far as I know never has been) any question about its safety.
The wikipedia article for glyphosate is worth reading and, I think, fairly accurate. It appears the IARC is out on a limb, reason unknown though conjecture is allowable!

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:23 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Salopian, I agree. But this holds for most research especially that about Climate Change/Global Warming/GHE.

Jul 16, 2015 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

"Spray the whole lot with Roundup"......oh if only, the giant Greek couchgrass has got my vines!
However my main problem is how to stop the wild tortoise eating everything!

Jul 16, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermeltemian

I just watched an episode of "Rosemary & Thyme", a couple of weeks ago, where hogweed was used as a key component of the killer's wicked actions.

Jul 16, 2015 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

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