Farmers ‘must add voices’ to glyphosate debate

Farmers are being urged to write to their politicians to explain why the under-fire weedkiller glyphosate is critical to their businesses.

At a meeting hosted by pesticide distributors CMI last week, a straw poll of 30 farmers found just one had written to their MP to stress the importance of glyphosate and the need for a lengthy renewal of its licence.

The NFU said it was concerned that not enough individual farmers had written to their MPs, MEPs and the European Commission to lobby for glyphosate’s licence renewal.

See also: How to get into farming politics

Speaking at the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) annual conference in Birmingham this week, its chief arable adviser Guy Gagen said: “We heard from the secretary of state (Andrea Leadsom) that she believes it’s safe. Regulatory bodies across the world have said it’s safe.

“But when we talk to MPs and MEPs they say they get all sorts of letters and tweets, but not so many from farmers. They tell us our science is good, probably better than our opponents, but that it’s not public opinion.”

Over the next six months, the NFU urged farmers to invite MPs onto their farm to look at soils, weed burden, cover crops and no-till/min-till systems and explain how glyphosate allows them to farm without disturbing the soil.

Impassioned plea

Farmers have been posting their comments online about the need to keep glyphosate.

Essex no-till farmer George Young has written an impassioned blog post explaining what glyphosate enables him to do and why it is necessary for his farm.

He writes: “I use glyphosate to give me a weed-free, fresh start when I plant my crop.  I could plough to achieve the same outcome, but by doing that I would destroy the habitat for all the birds, creatures, mice and hares, as well as burn loads of diesel and release tonnes of locked-up CO2 into the atmosphere in the process.  

“And I would get problems with soil running away into my ditches. (That) doesn’t sound especially environmentally friendly to me…”

Farmers have also been posting pictures of their farm to Twitter, alongside simple statements that explain why glyphosate is essential, using the hashtag #glyphosateisvital.

Barclay Bell, president of the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), said: “It is important that farmers make a strong case for the renewal of this product as failing to secure reauthorisation will have significant consequences for arable and horticulture farm businesses.