The Pesticide Problem

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Glyphosate is big news right now. The recent landmark US lawsuit that saw $78m in damages paid by Monsanto to a cancer sufferer, and the publishing of a study that found “significant levels” of the weedkiller in US cereal have shone the public spotlight on this ubiquitous herbicide and the impact of its use on our health.

We have been actively campaigning against glyphosate’s use in public spaces and on crops just before harvest for the past few years – you can read about our Not In Our Bread campaign here. However, the problem isn’t just glyphosate: our food and farming system is stuck on a chemical-reliant treadmill and we need it to stop.

Part of a bigger problem

The number of chemicals applied to major UK crops is increasing dramatically – despite industry claims to the opposite. Scientists increasingly believe there is no safe lower dose for human exposure, and research indicates pesticides are playing a significant part in the catastrophic farmland wildlife crash.

Banning single pesticides in isolation is not the answer. They will simply be replaced. What is needed now is a farming system that moves away from this reliance on pesticides.

We want the next generation of farmers to grow up without the pressure to put toxic chemicals on their fields, and the next generation of children never to eat it. It isn’t enough to fight for a ban after ban. We need to break the cycle.

The solution

Helping farmers get off the chemical treadmill requires a wholesale rethink of our food and farming systems. Producing plentiful, high quality food without reliance on pesticides is perfectly possible, as organic farmers worldwide demonstrate, but under our current economic model it costs more to do so – pesticides don’t carry the costs they incur, while labour is expensive.

The world is sitting up and taking notice of the landmark glyphosate case in the US. European countries such as France and Germany are preparing for a ban despite the EU 5 year re-license, and Italy has already banned toxic glyphosate from being used for pre-harvest in many public areas. We are presented with an opportunity to step up our work to influence future policy. And to influence public opinion on pesticides so that the government feels there is a mandate to act.

With the right carrots and sticks, we can transition our food system over the next decade – to one that works with and for nature, provides a fair living for farmers, and supports a healthy, affordable diet for citizens.

Making a difference

Thousands of organic farmers show you can already farm profitably without pesticides. Through Innovative Farmers, part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, we are helping them and other farmers find even better ways of doing this. This isn’t simply about substituting other tools, like biological controls; it is also about developing more diverse farming systems, for example bringing different crops and even trees into farms. 

Find out what else we have been doing on this front.

How you can help

The mounting pressure on glyphosate use – the world’s most widely used herbicide – has shone the spotlight on pesticide use just as the post-Brexit Agriculture Bill is being worked on.

To seize the moment, we need to act fast!

If you agree that our food shouldn’t be contaminated with pesticides and that our wildlife should be protected not poisoned, then please consider making a donation.Your donation will:

  • Change public opinion – so government recognise there is a mandate to act
  • Influence policy makers to make system-wide change at the scale needed
  • Make lasting change on the ground – on farms and on our children’s plates

Find out more on what we are doing to stop pesticides damaging our health and killing our wildlife.