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Summer has finally arrived. Yesterday we had snow! However it has been dry and for that at least we are very grateful, it has meant we have been able to get out and start planting. We transplanted the first outdoor cabbage, broccoli and kale last week as well as the early potatoes. The little plants are shocked they have been removed from their warm nest in the polytunnel and after a couple of days of “hardening off” they have been put forth into the harsh realities of the field.
The cold has meant that there has been no growth, neither plant nor weed is thriving, the temperatures are too low. One of the major differences between organic and conventional agriculture is the way weeds are controlled. I often marvel at how even in show gardens the flower beds and raised veg beds are immaculate with not a weed in sight, it always leaves me with a suspicious feeling that there is more on the ground that meets the eye (Quite literally)
The use of the herbicide Roundup has been a hot topic recently, with the EU postposing the renewal of the licence for it’s use. It is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the scale of its use is staggering 650,000t in 2011. Recently the WHO (world health authority) reclassified it as a probable carcinogen, while the manufactures claim that it is absolutely safe. In 1961 the famous novel “Silent Spring” was published, written by Rachel Carlson it publicised the damaging effects of pesticides on health and the environment, most notably DDT. The book eventually led to the banning and the exposure of the toxicity of DDT and the formation of the US EPA(environmental protection agency).
There has been fierce resistance to the EU’s stance on Roundup’s licence renewal by the agrochemical industry. I find myself for once admiring the EU bureaucratic machine, putting the importance and safety of it’s people before the needs of big business.
Monsanto the manufacturer of roundup has devised a very clever strategy using GM crops to tie farmers to the use of it’s chemicals and as a result increasing its dominance in a market which is responsible for providing us with our food.
Monsanto claims that roundup is only active on plants, however a recent publication in Nature has shown that the application of roundup reduced the activity and reproduction of earthworms. As any farmer will tell you the humble earth worm is a crucial part of the underground eco-system. This research undermines claims that glyphosate (the active ingredient in roundup) is selective for plants, it clearly is not.
If you find yourself driving along the motorway this bank holiday weekend, glance to your left or right, just notice the tractor wheel markings going up and down fields of corn and wheat. These are the spray tracks that the tractors follow time and time again as they apply a cocktail of chemicals to enhance the growth of the crop and keep disease at bay. The final application will most likely be of roundup as it is applied to wheat just before harvest to help dry the crop out. This is a systemic chemical (it absorbs into the plant ) and is applied just before the wheat is harvested just before we eat it.
This system of agriculture supports massive profits for large multinational organisations and traps the farmer in a global food market that he has no control over. (Monsanto’s profit last year was $3.5 billion).
Yes, the use of a herbicide such as roundup makes weed control much easier, it reduces the price we pay in the shop for our food. But really when you look at the sickness, disease, water pollution and environmental damage that results as a use of chemicals in agriculture is our food really any cheaper? I would argue that it most definitely is not.
Fresh radish, salad, rocket, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks from our farm and Irish potatoes.
The fact that winter has descended, as we head into May is worrying enough, and yet to find the positive we don’t have to dust off our weeding machinery just yet!
Have a great bank holiday,
About Green Earth Organics: If you are looking for the freshest local organic produce delivered direct to your door, then you have come to the right place. Our 30 acre mixed organic vegetable farm is situated 8 miles from Galway and has been in our family for 3 generations. We deliver locally in Galway, Mayo, Limerick and Dublin (NEW) for only €2.50 (depending on your address) and also nationwide via courier. We have over 200+ certified organic products on our website http://www.greenearthorganics.ie – including organic butter, cheese, eggs, coconut oil, nuts and seeds and even wheatgrass! Most of our customers join our box scheme and receive a seasonal box of fruit and veg delivered to them automatically every week. Other customers prefer to shop for exactly what they need online and order from their own shopping list. Whatever works for you!
Contact Green Earth Organics in Galway (091 793 768) or Dublin (01 460 0467)