Special report: The war on weeds

Eric Clifford of the Clifford Farm in Starksboro poured a mix of vitamins over grass and corn used to feed his cows. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Eric Clifford of the Clifford Farm in Starksboro pours a mix of vitamins over grass and corn used to feed his cows. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

On a busy street corner outside the Rutland farmers’ market, where local vendors sell cheeses, meats and spring vegetables, about a dozen residents recently raised signs to protest the use of weed-killing herbicides across the United States, especially Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.
 Lisa Sheridan, 52, of West Rutland, dressed in a pesticide applicator suit protesting the use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds and the herbicide Roundup outside the farmer's market in Rutland. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Lisa Sheridan, 52, of West Rutland, dressed in a pesticide applicator suit protesting the use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds and the herbicide Roundup outside the farmers’ market in Rutland. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

“They are poisoning the earth. We are poisoning the water,” said Lisa Sheridan, 52, of West Rutland, who was dressed in a pesticide applicator suit holding a spray bottle and an ear of corn. She considers herself poor and receives disability benefits, but she said she eats only organic foods due to a fear of pesticide contamination.

“Everybody is eating it. Our food supply is in peril. Our soil is in peril. Our water is in peril,” she said.

Most conventional Vermont dairy farmers this spring sprayed their fields with glyphosate, a weed killer that is gaining popularity among dairy farmers who grow corn to feed their cows. On fields where weeds and grass are brown, many farmers have already sprayed the herbicide this year and will likely spray again.

According to state data, nearly all of the corn grown in Vermont is genetically engineered to survive the application of pesticides. Over the past decade, farmers who plant “Roundup Ready” corn have increasingly turning to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, to kill a variety of weeds that take nutrients, water and sunlight away from corn, which can affect yields.

In 2013, Vermont farmers and chemical applicators purchased five times more glyphosate than they did a decade ago, according to new data requested from the Agency of Agriculture.

Glyphosate is preferred among farmers who say it’s among the least toxic on the market, but strong enough to stunt weed growth. State regulators considered the chemical safe enough for farmers to spray without a license. (Applicators of all other herbicides need a license.)

But glyphosate is now being criticized for its potential impact on the environment and human health. This year, an agency of the World Health Organization found that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. The chemical can cause kidney damage and reproductive issues, according to federal regulators. Other research indicates glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.

Monsanto officials say regulatory agencies and experts across the world maintain the chemical, when used according to the label instructions, is not carcinogenic. The Environmental Protection Agency agrees, but is reviewing the chemical’s toxicity. Toxicologists have concluded that the original Roundup brand herbicide does not cause adverse effects on development, reproduction or endocrine systems in humans and other mammals.

Vermont was the first state in the nation to require foods with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled.

But lawmakers did not ban the use of GMO corn. Industry proponents have maintained that genetically engineered corn would mitigate the need for more pesticides. Instead, the opposite has proved true. Farmers are using six times more glyphosate now than they did in 1999.

With the proliferation of glyphosate, some residents fear the chemical could contaminate water supplies. The state is not required to monitor drinking water for glyphosate due to a federal waiver.

Safer solution

Many agronomists and farmers, however, say the herbicide, which was first introduced commercially by Monsanto in 1974, is replacing more toxic chemicals that are likely to flow off of fields or leach through the soil into groundwater, such as atrazine, which the EPA says can cause cancer with long-term exposure. They say Roundup Ready corn also reduces insecticide use because the corn is engineered to kill pests when eaten — although most seeds are coated with insecticides as well.

“We may have increased the use of glyphosate but it’s a safer product,” said Jeff Carter, a University of Vermont Extension assistant professor in Middlebury. “I personally do think it’s the lesser of two evils if it’s used correctly.”

According to the EPA, long-term exposure to atrazine can cause cancer, cardiovascular damage, muscle degeneration and weight loss. The EPA maximum concentration limit for atrazine in drinking water is 3 parts per billion.

Since 2002, there have been more than two dozen cases in which atrazine has been detected in Vermont drinking water supplies serving thousands of people at levels as high as 0.44 parts per billion, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Locations include Alburgh, Londonderry, Manchester, Middlebury, South Hero and Swanton.

The EPA says glyphosate does not cause cancer, but can cause kidney damage. The state does not test drinking water for glyphosate, but samples taken for non-regulatory reasons indicate concentration levels are below what lab equipment used by the state can detect, a state official said.

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Chuck Ross, secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, said there is no formal policy initiative underway to reduce pesticide use in Vermont. But he said it is something the agency is interested in.

He said there will be a debate in the scientific community about the health impacts of glyphosate, and that debate needs to “settle out” before policy actions are taken. But he said glyphosate is generally viewed as superior to the chemicals used in the past.

“Is it risk free? [There are] all kinds of things that you can use that are risky. Too much lime and that’s a problem,” he said.

He is not concerned that nearly all corn growing in Vermont is genetically engineered.

Pesticide Use

Chart shows overall use of pesticide in Vermont.

Chart shows overall use of pesticide in Vermont.

 

Genetically engineered corn seed use

The percentage of genetically engineered corn seed used in Vermont.

The percentage of genetically engineered corn seed used in Vermont.

 

Active ingredients in pesticides

Chart shows the amount of each active ingredient in pesticide used in Vermont.

Chart shows the amount of each active ingredient in pesticide used in Vermont.

Pesticides in Vermont’s modern dairy system

Eric Clifford of the Clifford Farm in Starksboro milks 200 cows. He grows grass and corn silage on his 500-acre farm to feed his cows. On a gray morning in May, he was rushing to plant corn before rain arrived. Carrying a 12-ounce container of chocolate milk, he watched his cows eat a mix of feed about 75 percent corn silage and 25 percent alfalfa.

“Every day that truck leaves there’s milk we’re producing that’s feeding people,” Clifford said. “You’re feeding people and taking care of the environment.”

The farm has been experimenting with cover cropping, a technique where farmers plant a winter crop to hold down soil and prevent soil runoff into the water, he said. This year, one section of his field was brown where he had planted winter rye before spraying it with a quart of glyphosate. He already planted corn while the winter rye was still decaying.

“Ultimately with cover cropping you can, under the right scenario, get by with less,” Clifford said. But, he added, “We use Roundup to kill cover crops and we are nearing the time period where we would use, perhaps, other herbicides.”

Some agronomists, however, say cover cropping is among the reasons why farmers are using more glyphosate. It can be applied to kill the cover crop, and corn can be planted within days after the application. Because of that and other reasons, such as price, glyphosate has been on the rise in Vermont.

In 2013, farmers purchased 17,730 pounds of glyphosate, up six times from 1999 levels when farmers purchased 2,851 pounds, according to the most recent data available, provided by the Agency of Agriculture upon request. The data published on the agency’s website has been inaccurate for years, state officials say. A full dataset is still unavailable.

Farmers use herbicides to kill common weeds including quackgrass, witchgrass, pigweed, and pests that include armyworms, click beetle and the black cutworm. Many farmers use a variety of pesticides to control weeds. Year after year planting of corn monocultures requires pesticides, agronomists say.

Eros Franquiz, a 3-year-old, and his mother Nahomi Franquiz, 23, of Massachusetts, protested the use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds and herbicide Roundup, outside the farmers market in Rutland. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Eros Franquiz, a 3-year-old, and his mother Nahomi Franquiz, 23, of Massachusetts, protested the use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds and herbicide Roundup, outside the farmers market in Rutland. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

“It’s a tool that nobody wants to use, but it makes agriculture viable in this state,” said state Agrichemical Management Chief Cary Giguere.

Clifford and others use more than just glyphosate to kill weeds. Some agronomists say farmers should rotate pesticides in order to avoid creating herbicide-resistant weeds, which exist but are not causing an increase in pesticide use in Vermont, agronomists say. Redroot pigweed and common lambsquarters are found in Vermont and are resistant to atrazine.

“It’s pretty easy to see that resistance,” said Daniel Hudson, a University of Vermont Extension assistant professor who works in the Northeast Kingdom and Connecticut River watershed as an agronomist and nutrient management specialist. “If people know that they have resistance to a particular herbicide, they are going to try to find a product that will cover as many weeds as they can.”

But some farmers say the state should be phasing out pesticides, not changing the type that is used.

“These are toxic chemicals,” said Will Allen, of the Cedar Circle Farm, an organic vegetable and fruit farm in East Thetford. “That’s what most of our cows are eating in Vermont.”

Asked whether glyphosate is better than atrazine, the second most widely used herbicide in Vermont, Allen said the industry has for years said new chemicals are replacing worse chemicals.

“Atrazine is already banned in the EU. Probably within a year glyphosate will be banned,” he said.

One of Allen’s top concerns is that the herbicide is entering Vermont’s waterways.

The Agency of Agriculture, which regulates pesticides and monitors for surface and groundwater contamination, does not have electronic records for the last five years due to a delayed computer system overhaul that began about five years ago. All handwritten data is kept on paper postcards in a metal box inside the Agency of Agriculture office in Montpelier.

But agronomists say glyphosate, unlike atrazine, binds to soil and plants. It also becomes nontoxic in days. Atrazine can enter groundwater and drinking water, and can take months to more than a year to become nontoxic, especially in cool water. But research indicates that glyphosate can leave the field as well.

“It moves around more than they thought it would,” said William Battaglin, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Battaglin was one of the authors of a 2014 study that found frequent traces of glyphosate in streams, rivers, wastewater treatment plant outflows and ditches sampled across 38 states. The study did not include Vermont. He said glyphosate does bind strongly to soil particles, but it can still make its way into the water when it washes off of fields. He said 90 percent of the glyphosate stays on the field and eventually degrades on the soil or plant.

Mike Eastman of the 40-cow dairy farm in Addison looks out over a former manure lagoon toward the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Mike Eastman, who owns a 40-cow dairy farm in Addison, looks out over a former manure lagoon toward the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Alternatives to pesticides

Heather Darby, a University of Vermont Extension associate professor based in St. Albans, said pesticides were intended to be applied when there is a problem. Now, she said, with insecticides applied to seed, they are used even when they are not needed.

“Often people feel like this is what’s available and they are not given as much choice as there should be,” Darby said. “Is all of that necessary? And do we always need it?”

Most corn seeds are treated with a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, which are used to harm or kill insects, and some scientists blame the toxins for declines in bee populations. Federal regulations exempt reporting of the chemical when used to treat seeds.

Agronomists say the modern corn industry requires the use of pesticides. Without them, farmers would have to till their land and rotate crops, which creates other concerns about soil runoff.

But some farmers grow grass rather than corn and do not use pesticides.

Mike Eastman owns a 40-cow, 312-acre farm in Addison, where he grows grass to feed his dairy cows without using pesticides. In late April, he sat in a lawn chair looking through a row of willow trees at a plume of dust caused by the tilling of a farm just beyond his young sod pasture still too low for grazing cows.

 Mike Eastman of the 40-cow dairy farm in Addison pets his cows as the feed on grass just weeks before moving outside to graze. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Mike Eastman of the 40-cow dairy farm in Addison pets his cows as they feed on grass just weeks before moving outside to graze. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

“I’ve always just liked seeing cows out grazing in a field. I think it’s pretty. I think it’s peaceful.” Eastman said. “When I’m done milking on a summer night and you just sit here with a beer and watch your cows out grazing, you’re kind of letting the cow do what comes natural to the cow.”

He feeds his cows dry grass in the winter and lets them graze in the summer. He said his cows produce less milk than conventional dairy farms, but he receives a premium for grass-fed organic. His farm is his only source of income, he said. Eastman said conventional dairy farmers cannot change overnight to eliminate pesticide use. He said the industry has been evolving for 50 to 60 years to feed cows grain, which means more pesticides.

“So if you wanted to change it, you would have to give another 50 to 60 years to have it go the other way,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It would be an evolution back in the other direction that you have been evolving away from.”

John Herrick

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  • Tom Sullivan

    The LD50 is the method uses to measure the toxicity of a chemical or a product in question. The higher the LD50, the less toxic a substance is, while the lower the number, the more toxic it is.

    So to put it in perspective, Glyphosate has an oral LD50 of 5100, The active ingredient in horticultural vinegar (acetic acid) has an LD50 of 3350, and common table salt has an LD50 of 3000.

    So the glyphosate hysteria (which is what it is) is more of an emotional response rather than a rational response, being that glyphosate is less toxic than common table salt. However, the Dupont/Monsanto anti-corporation conspiracy theorists might say otherwise.

    • Katharine Hikel, MD

      Not quite accurate: according to NIH data, the results from cellular and animal tests on glyphosate alone are quite different from tests on glyphosate + commercial compound ingredients (surfactants, etc) – which are much worse, and more likely to cause mutations and other derangements. So it’s not just the glyphosate people are worried about – it’s all the other stuff they mix with it to make it work (i.e. penetrate living cells faster).

      The studies – also from NIT – on Roundup toxicity (long-term and/or large-dose exposures on ag workers) bear that out.

      In other words, Roundup is not just glyphosate; and glyphosate is not the only problem chemical here.

  • Carl Marcinkowski

    Why don’t you show us and drink it, Tom? Also, pour table salt or vinegar into the watershed and see how life goes on downstream…
    Hysteria? All of Europe and many other parts of the world are just being hysterical by questioning or banning glyphosate? They are all just anti-corporation conspiracy theorists?

    • Tom Sullivan

      Hi Carl,
      Thanks for helping me make my point.

  • boots wardinski

    safer? but not safe. it is poison.

  • Barry Kade

    No one is arguing that the danger of glysophate is that it is an acute poison, one that will kill you right off. That is what LD-50 measures; how much it takes to kill 1/2 of the test population. It does not measure the long term effects of lesser amounts. Perhaps Tom Sullivan would like to replace his table salt with glysophate. That would be a violation of federal law, likely a moot issue if he got away with it for many years, as he’d be dead.

  • Barry Kade

    Typo alert:
    “But some farmers grow corn rather than grass and do not use pesticides.”

    It should be “grow grass rather than corn” as shown by the following paragraph.

  • Randy Koch

    I wonder why Herrick in a very long article takes a pass on the research of MIT scientist Stephanie Seneff, Gilles-Eric Seralini, and others who have linked glyphosate to autism and other pervasive health problems.

    Also, it would be interesting to see reporting on how much Roundup and other glyphosate products are used on Vermont’s highways to eliminate the need for weedwhacking at guardrails.

  • James Maroney

    The reader should give this statement careful scrutiny: “Every day that truck leaves there’s milk we’re producing that’s feeding people…You’re feeding people and taking care of the environment.”

    Vermont conventional dairy is Vermont’s largest agricultural industry yet it produces barely 1% of the nation’s milk supply and no measurable part of the nation’s supply of meat, fruit, vegetables fiber or fish. Vermont conventional farmers number only about 700 today, down from 11,200 after WWII. The federal government makes sure that there is a surplus of milk at all times, which is why the price is so low. So Vermont conventional dairy farmers are getting about $17/cwt for milk, which is less than the cost of production for the majority of them. They grow corn to boost the milk supply, the main effect of which is to keep the surplus above demand, the main effect of which is to keep their own price down below cost of production. Vermont dairy does not need to grow corn; it does not have to use herbicides to control weeds or artificial fertilizer to gain soil fertility, the most conspicuous effects of which are to boost the surplus and to pollute the lake. The secretary of agriculture does not see any problem with the present paradigm, which is empirically the agent provocateur in both farm attrition and lake pollution. But the taxpayers subsidize the industry $60/80M/year to keep them at this and now under H.35 they will pay $7.5M more to clean up their mess. The state has never investigated what other methods farmers might employ to control weeds and achieve soil fertility, like Senator Leahy’s National Organic Program, for example, which permits no GMO, no herbicide and no artificial fertilizer precisely because of their effect upon the environment and which pay the farmer double for his/her milk. And under Chuck Ross, secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, “there is no formal policy initiative underway to reduce pesticide use in Vermont,” or to reform the way our farmers operate.

  • walter judge

    “All of Europe … are just being hysterical? They are all just … conspiracy theorists?”

    Yup. You are suggesting that that’s not possible. Why? Large groups of people cannot be collectively irrational? That in itself is an irrational thing to say. It happens every single day, and always has throughout human history. That’s why your mother told you not to jump off a bridge just because all of your friends are doing it.

    • Janice Prindle

      Assuming large numbers of people are irrational in banning glyphosate — as in the entire European Union– simply because they disagree with you, without examining the evidence that led them to do so, is pretty much the same as jumping off that bridge because your friends in industry are doing it.

      The history of Monsanto and its role in our federal “food” policy is sufficient reason to maintain an open skepticism, at least, that Europeans are the ones being irrational on this issue. Remember that Monsanto assured us thalidomide was safe, and our government, under its influence, did not protect us. Ditto Agent Orange… And one has to wonder why they ban the use of their Roundup Ready seed for research (as in, independent research, not industry-sponsored).

      • Fred Woogmaster

        Like!

      • walter judge

        Ms. Prindle, where do you get your “facts”? The US FDA never approved Thalidomide for use in the U.S., and Monsanto had nothing to do with it. Check Wikipedia.

        In fact, the FDA did exactly what it’s supposed to do: not allow a dangerous drug to be sold.

  • Annette Smith

    As I understand the history, during the Kunin administration the Pesticide Advisory Council was set up with the goal of reducing Vermont’s pesticide use. (I once looked at the statute and didn’t see that goal identified there). Instead, the PAC has been the rubber stamping entity for pesticide usage, and though some good people have attempted to influence their work by attending their meetings it has been an exercise in futility. I’m not sure they have ever even talked about the agricultural usage of pesticides in Vermont or how to reduce them.

    Here is the data for 2013
    http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/PDF/Matts_Files/2013%20Pesticide%20Usage.pdf
    for all reported uses, not just agriculture. In the cooling tower category, most of that is Omya, which uses biocides to treat its slurry product.

    In 2002, VCE did a report on agriculture in Vermont, featuring several different situations involving pesticides. http://vce.org/deancrisisagvt.html.

    In 1997, the NY Times report this:
    “Last year, Dennis C. Vacco, the Attorney General of New York, ordered the company to pull ads that said Roundup was ”safer than table salt” and ”practically nontoxic” to mammals, birds and fish.” http://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/29/business/monsanto-recruits-horticulturist-san-diego-zoo-pitch-its-popular-herbicide.html?ref=monsantocompany

    It’s all good for the cancer industry, helps them sell more pharmaceuticals.

  • Matt Fisken

    Definitely one of the top issues facing Vermont. How many Vermont households have a gallon or two of roundup in their garage? My guess is a quarter. That’s a lot of poison being stored and used by the general public.

    I agree with others that the question isn’t so much how much do farms use, but how much is sold off store shelves and how much does the state purchase?

  • Brian Tokar

    Here’s Wikipedia on the effects of metalochlor, use of which has multiplied in VT along with glyphosate. The references are all to published research articles, presumably peer reviewed, in addition to the EPA’s registration document (ref. 6):

    Metolachlor has been detected in ground and surface waters in concentrations ranging from 0.08 to 4.5 parts per billion (ppb) throughout the U.S.[5] It is classified as a Category C pesticide by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), which indicates limited evidence of carcinogenicity.[6] Evidence of the bioaccumulation of metolachlor in edible species of fish as well as its adverse effect on the growth and development raise concerns on its effects on human health. Though there is no set maximum concentration (maximum contaminant level, MCL) for metolachlor that is allowed in drinking water, the US EPA does have a health advisory level (HAL) of 0.525 mg/L.

    Metolachlor induces cytotoxic and genotoxic effects in human lymphocytes.[7] Genotoxic effects have also been observed in tadpoles exposed to metolachlor.[8] Evidence also reveals that metolachlor affects cell growth. Cell division in yeast was reduced,[9] and chicken embryos exposed to metolchlor showed a significant decrease in the average body mass compared to the control.[10]

  • Gary Murdock

    This article is difficult to follow, Herbicide and Pesticide appear to be used interchangeably. It starts as an article about Roundup, next paragraph is a woman protesting against pesticides, then goes on about herbicides, then quotes Chuck Ross talking about pesticides. The following are 2 examples.

    “On fields where weeds and grass are brown, many farmers have already sprayed the herbicide this year and will likely spray again.”
    “According to state data, nearly all of the corn grown in Vermont is genetically engineered to survive the application of pesticides.”

    • Randy Koch

      Pesticide vs Herbicide Excellent question to pose relative to glyphosate. Pesticide usually means a substance that kills animals, herbicide a substance that kills plant life. Monsanto has always claimed that glyphosate can’t hurt humans because it acts on the “shikimic pathway” alone and that seems to mean it only kills plant material. However that means it also acts on bacteria which aren’t truly either plants or animals and which share the “shikimic pathway with plants.”

      The human body is 90% bacteria and these bacteria are critical to the proper control of metabolic processes. Glyphosate is an powerful antibiotic that disrupts some of these processes.

    • Janet Smith

      Herbicides are pesticides. Pesticide is any substance used to kill, control or mitigate ANY kind of pest, whether it is an insect (insecticide), fungal disease (fungicide), weed (herbicide), rodent (rodenticide) or even micro-organisms (anti-bacterials/disinfectants). This is a very common misconception that herbicides are not pesticides. That is not true. They are. They are just a specific type of pesticides.

  • Aaron M. Kromash

    The pollution of our soil, water, and air is a terrible aspect of the dairy industry, but it is not the only one.

    Dairy foods are not healthy for humans who eat or produce them, the animals who suffer and die in the process, or our society, which countenances all this pollution, dysfunctional eating, and cruelty for the sake of… a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, it seems.

    There really is no logical or natural reason for humans to eat a lacteal secretion meant for bovine newborns. People may like the fatty taste of dairy, which is understandable but a poor argument in light of the serious, growing problems involved.

    Choose your issue, but the best solution for so many of them is the same. Whether proliferating GMOs, herbicide use, pollution, obesity, energy conservation, animal cruelty, or viable small agriculture in Vermont, movement toward a plant-based diet and economy is the best answer all around. Any policy discussion of Vermont’s pollution problems should reference this option.

  • Steve Merrill

    Wow–No “precautionary principle” for the USA!! By Jeezum, WE can take it!! Nobody even mentions the “somatic cell count” in milk, the “allowable” levels of Pus that is..I watched as the honeybees deserted my hives in 2004–’05 and it’s been nasty ever since. I sited new hives where I found spots without microwave radiation, but were close enough to GMO corn, so I avoided THAT too..Still they die..I testified in the Vt. Legislature that Einstein did the math and said we’d be going/gone some 4 years after a honeybee disappearance/plague, but my “representatives” were too busy checking their electronic hallucinations to hear me. Autism rates jump from 1/1000 to 1/100 in 30 years and we wonder? We’ve been doing this “dance with death” since the Chem-Co.’s were outlawed from using this stuff on our fellow humans in WWI, and now it’s everywhere, but we’re just fumbling along while the shills screech the company line. Maybe it’s the alcohol that “enables” or suspends our “dis-belief”, if a majority of folks chronically consume a addictive, flammable carcinogenic liquid to “wind down” daily then who is driving THIS bus? Do we wait until the planet resembles the movie “Children of Men” with refugees herded into for-profit jails (along with drug users, a nasty “system”), worldwide infertility, Gov.’t dispensed “anti-depressants” and (still) illegal weed? When 1/2 (we’re at about 1/3 now) of citizens are obese and diabetic? Are we really this uncaring? Why do we allow the “dairy industry” to pollute the whole state and keep “slaves” on their farms? I could use some help, and could fit a family of four in my barn, so when do I get MY “slaves”? Every year I lose berries because I’m the only picker, depriving me of revenue from pies, jellies, and jams, so WHY can’t I keep a few “undocumented”? I’m sure I could get greater “yields” by using chemicals and the state doesn’t even “monitor” this stuff due to a “federal waiver”? (I wonder WHO obtained THAT for them?) In 15 short years I have watched the river down the road die and just be a conveyor of brown scum now, and the nitrate levels in the village wells is increasing..Bet there’s NO correlation to the miles of continuous corn up river either..Stick a fork in us, we’re DONE..Have a great day, SM, N. Troy

    • Don Dalton

      We let “science” guide us– but what if science becomes corrupted? What if the PR industry has figured out that if you really want to persuade people, then you hit them with “science”? They’ve figured this out long ago. That would be OK if we had a robust check on misinformation but there is none– all the government institutions are in line with GMOs and pesticides and (OK this last is controversial but I’ve done my homework) vaccines. So the heavy lifting will be left to you and me: we have to say “no,” we have to get smart, do our homework, and not let misinformation disguised as “science” determine our what our world will look like.

  • Michael Bald

    While I view this article as intensely important, the issue of weeds should not be presented as a war. And the safety of pesticides is not an issue that federal government agencies or state agencies will resolve… EPA has been reviewing atrazine since 2006 when the European Union banned the product outright.
    No word yet…

    Vermonters need to simply speak with their consumption habits. Vermonters enjoy brewing and sharing their beers. Clean water is a fairly vital component of that beverage. So why do Vermonters hesitate to fund the cleanup of our state waterways? Why do Vermonters purchase water in little plastic bottles?
    Wouldn’t that be the kind of thing to make you go “hmmmm” ?

    Vermonters will likely next year see a RoundUp Ready grass seed tailor made for generic American lawns. Will they purchase it? Or will they divert their business to places like Guy’s Farm and Yard who refuse to carry such items, on principle? Hard tellin’.

    Here’s a consumer purchasing / spending challenge. Vermonters can apply to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA) for money to manage their invasive species. But in Vermont, that money can only be used in a chemical treatment scenario. That’s the policy. In New Hampshire you can use whatever control method you want, as long as you get results, but in Vermont the Integrated Pest Management guidelines allow for synthetic herbicides only.
    I know this; invasive species are what I do for a living. No chemicals, no toxins.

    And people hire me with their own hard-earned money. They choose to pass on the federal funding. I admire them for that choice as consumers and for acting on their beliefs. They are the informal but effective movement to reduce pesticide usage that Secretary Ross and other policy-makers are unaware of.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am the founder of the company Got Weeds? and am not presenting these comments to advertise my services in any way.
    I’m totally booked anyway, lots of work in New Hampshire this week. Hmmmm.

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