In recent discussions with different people at the County of Sonoma, it sounds like there is some concern about the county’s use of glyphosate (Round-up) as part of its roadside weed control program. It seems recently the glyphosate has been under more attack than ever as a potential carcinogen and there has been lots of bad press around that. The other connection that is often made is when people discuss GMO crops and tie them to glyphosate or “round-up ready” seeds and plants. Again that also seems to mostly be in a negative manner by media where negative headlines sell.
Here in Sonoma County, we have plenty of glyphosate being used. I’m not sure if the biggest user is agriculture, government (county and state), or residential but I’m sure all are users of glyphosate. The interesting thing is as you move around the country the way glyphosate is used becomes very specific. As you can imagine, in more urban counties government and residential are bigger users and in places like the mid-west it is more likely agriculture. Needless to say some groups have it in their minds that this stuff is poisonous and are working hard to advance an agenda to ban glyphosate outright. The easiest place to start is by scaring people enough to stop using it.
I really don’t know one way or the other if glyphosate is a carcinogen. I don’t believe it is, and I choose to use it on my farm to control weeds because it is effective. In years like this when labor is short, I don’t know that there is any alternative. If I really thought I was poisoning myself or my land I would not use it, and I don’t think anyone else would either. That said the EPA and USDA have been wrong about allowing things to be used in the past that have proven to be dangerous, so I don’t have blind faith in the government to protect me. It seems that recent studies about glyphosate as a carcinogen have been rebutted, and we shall watch as the research continues, but I would think the liability of such a thing would incredibly devalue the Monsanto Corporation as the original producer of Round-up.
So that leads to another recent headline that’s in the news which is the potential sale of Monsanto to Bayer. I would imagine if Round-up was truly a carcinogen and so widely used both nationally and internationally over the last decades that it was a liability, Bayer would not be interested in buying Monsanto and assuming those liabilities. Just a thought but worth mentioning as the best case of due diligence is actively being done by a large corporation at no cost to tax payers on the risk/benefit of Monsanto and round-up. Maybe if Bayer walks away from the Monsanto purchase that means more than what meets the eye.
So as the county wrestles with the idea of studying the cost to replace glyphosate with other products or forms of weed control the rest of us do the same every year. As farmers do every year, we look for less expensive ways to manage land we will pass on to a future generation. We don’t entertain ideas that could poison our soils and farms where our children will grow, but we must always look for ways to do things more economically. That’s just good business. I hope the county finds a better way of doing things or affirms how it currently manages roadsides, etc. Maybe a private contractor could do it cheaper and better? The worst case scenario is that we get the same management as Caltrans employees on highway 101 which is an impressive crop of star thistle and tar weed from one end of the state to the other.