Opinion: Judge glyphosate on the science, not on who makes it

“So, Mr Smith,” asked the news reporter live on national TV. “How do you respond to the news that it’s been proven to a jury in California that glyphosate causes cancer?”

I was tempted to respond somewhat flippantly along the lines of: “In much the same way I reacted when a Californian jury found OJ Simpson not guilty of murder”.

See also: The glyphosate debate explained

But, instead, I calmly reminded the broadcaster that just last year the toxicity and carcinogenicity of glyphosate had been reviewed thoroughly by the scientific experts that sit on the appropriate authorities in Europe and been given a clean bill of health.

For me, the analysis of the eminent scientists who sit on these agencies holds far more sway than the opinion of a randomly chosen, dozen folk whose sole qualification for the task they were given as a jury was that they were citizens of San Francisco.

But it’s been clear to me for some while that the ongoing campaign to get glyphosate banned isn’t really about science at all, but rather it’s about an ideological hatred of GM technology and a politicised dislike of large-scale corporations.

As a farmer, when it comes to glyphosate, it is irrelevant to me who makes the stuff, or how it’s used elsewhere in the world for the growing of GM crops. I just want to carry on using glyphosate because I’m satisfied it is safe and it helps me grow crops more efficiently and in a sustainable manner.

If glyphosate was brewed in cauldrons by little old ladies on Cornish cliffs operating as autonomous collectives, then I’d happily still buy it, as long as it remained cost efficient, safe and effective to use.

Furthermore, I don’t positively prefer to deal with corporations over individuals or other legal entities, but at the same time I have no prejudice against them either.

A radical dislike of corporations makes little sense to me. It reminds me of a debate I had in a pub about GM crops many years ago with a couple of trendy alternative “lifestylers”.

They summed up their views by basically saying they simply didn’t trust large American corporations and therefore didn’t trust their products. Throughout the conversation, on the bar in front of one of them was a packet of Marlboro cigarettes.

Conversely, I don’t buy into the idea that the smaller, less corporate the outfit then the more honest it is to deal with.

I remember many years ago a gang of thick-set looking individuals arrived in our farmyard in an unmarked tipper truck offering to tarmac one of our farm tracks for, what seemed to me, to be an excellent price. Then my father appeared from somewhere to tell this gang in no uncertain terms to get out of his farmyard.

When they were gone, Dad explained I should never, ever deal with people who didn’t have a registered office at a permanent address. His main reasoning was that such outfits operated as if they weren’t accountable to any laws and, as such, they were not to be trusted.

On reflection you could say such types are the least corporate of anybody you could come across. More fool anyone who thinks that makes them good people to deal with.

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