This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 6th of May 2019.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
I came across a quote somewhere in my travels lately that just won’t leave my mind. I suspect it was from Charles Massie of Call of the Reed Warbler fame. (Link in the show notes.) The words were something like: Sustainability isn’t enough anymore we need to regenerate. This immediately put me mind of a Bill Mollison quote.
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
And clearly we are in a position where we need a revolution. Not the violent sort but a broad based, grassroots revolution in food production. We face the current effort, in Star Wars terms, of the Empire Striking Back is the EPA confirming Glyphosate as safe. From the reuters report: U.S. environment agency says glyphosate weed killer is not a carcinogen.
CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Tuesday that glyphosate, a chemical in many popular weed killers, is not a carcinogen, contradicting decisions by U.S. juries that found it caused cancer in people.
Now the “science” this is based upon was provided by Monsanto. So no problem there really. The science, as it is, is very old in this IT world. Since the original approval of glyphosate, some newer research has occurred. The argument from Monsanto is based upon the notion that glyphosate attacks plants through the Shikimate pathway which is peculiar to plants but does not exist in animals, ergo glyphosate is safe to use around animals. Ta dah! As we’ve explored on this podcast and elsewhere, there’s a plethora of other beasties lurking on and within us, literally, within.
From the Journal Nature: The Human Microbiome Project
Before the Human Genome Project was completed, some researchers predicted that ∼100,000 genes would be found. So, many were surprised and perhaps humbled by the announcement that the human genome contains only ∼20,000 protein-coding genes, not much different from the fruit fly genome. However, if the view of what constitutes a human is extended, then it is clear that 100,000 genes is probably an underestimate. The microorganisms that live inside and on humans (known as the microbiota) are estimated to outnumber human somatic and germ cells by a factor of ten. Together, the genomes of these microbial symbionts (collectively defined as the microbiome) provide traits that humans did not need to evolve on their own 1.
The paper goes on to explain there is a connection between these will beasties and our own immune systems. Now this is the clincher, There is a growing body of evidence that glyphosate does affect the microbiome. I quote a paper out of the University of Texas, Austen a while back on the effect of glyphosate on the ability of bees the withstand infections. Now the legal actions currently and subject to appeal refer to individuals suffering non hodgkins lymphoma. Given the growing knowledge of the microbiome, our immune systems and the consequences of glyphosate exposure I would not be surprised if more diseases are able to be related to glyphosate exposure.
The point I am trying to get to is the inertia of the system. That courts have decided in favour of individuals bringing prosecutions against glyphosate manufacturers is fairly remarkable but a sign of things changing. The EPA deciding to reaffirm the safety of glyphosate is a sign of that inertia. Good science takes time but science will self correct its own errors, eventually. From 1912 it took till 1953 to fully overthrow the Piltdown hoax.
While Piltdown was just a matter of clownish attempts to show the first human was English, even if that England was 500,000 years ago, other matters need to be cleaned up more quickly.
The glyphosate situation is one such.
And glyphosate is but the tip of the iceberg of industrial agriculture. The canary in the coal mine, I’m running out of metaphors. The point is, glyphosate is part of a suite of activities which destroy soil life, require the application of greenhouse gas intensive fertilisers which destroys even more soil life and requires even more fertiliser, you get the picture. The vast store of soil life, read fertility, which has accumulated through physical, chemical AND biological actions is being slowly bled dry.
From a Guardian article back in 2017 entitled: UK is 30-40 years away from ‘eradication of soil fertility’, warns Gove
The UK is 30 to 40 years away from “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility” in parts of the country, the environment secretary Michael Gove has warned.
“We have encouraged a type of farming which has damaged the earth,” Gove told the parliamentary launch of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA). “Countries can withstand coups d’état, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility.
And to overcome this soil destroying culture we need a root and branch, grassroots, overgrow the system approach to rolling back industrial agriculture. Whilst we on the front lines, custodians of land, can make a difference we need to change the incentives within the current system. If the true costs of production were included in the sale price of foods, we would see a fairly quick realignment from the incentives implied in such pricing structure.
To do this requires tearing down the lobbying structures inherent in the democracies of the world. In a more command and control political system change relies upon the mindset of the “supreme leader” or whatever title they use. Now as to how we destroy the lobbying industry I have no idea and little hope. Maybe we need to infiltrate and subvert it but I know not how.
Hammering our local politicians, complaining loudly until they are forced to change might work. I really am at a loss. And that’s where I see the EPA coming out in support of glyphosate when the growing evidence says otherwise.
And on that frustrating note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
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Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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Call of the Reed Warbler
U.S. environment agency says glyphosate weed killer is not a carcinogen
The Human Microbiome Project
UK is 30-40 years away from ‘eradication of soil fertility’, warns Gove