Tuesday 16th of August 2022

the industrialisation of the destruction of nature so that all our frozen carrots and peas look the same.


The “catastrophic” decline in French farmland birds signals a wider biodiversity crisis in Europe which ultimately imperils all humans, leading scientists have told the Guardian.

A dramatic fall in farmland birds such as skylarks, whitethroats and ortolan bunting in France was revealed by two studies this week, with the spread of neonicotinoid pesticides – and decimation of insect life – coming under particular scrutiny.

With intensive crop production encouraged by the EU’s common agricultural policy apparently driving the bird declines, conservationists are warning that many European countries are facing a second “silent spring” – a term coined by the ecologist Rachel Carson to describe the slump in bird populations in the 1960s caused by pesticides.

“We’ve lost a quarter of skylarks in 15 years. It’s huge, it’s really, really huge. If this was the human population, it would be a major thing,” said Dr Benoit Fontaine of France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the new studies, a national survey of France’s common birds. “We are turning our farmland into a desert. We are losing everything and we need that nature, that biodiversity – the agriculture needs pollinators and the soil fauna. Without that, ultimately, we will die.”

Farmland makes up 45% of the EU’s land area, but farmland bird populations in France have fallen by an average of a third over the past 15 years. In some cases, the declines are worse: seven out of 10 meadow pipits have disappeared from French fields over that period, while eight in 10 partridges have vanished over 23 years, according to a second French study which examined 160 areas of typical arable plains in central France.


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What is less well-known is that some species of birds have already disappeared (possibly extinct though not recognised as such in the 1950/60s). My friend Jules Letambour, an expert on Jacques Perret's satirical ramblings mentioned to me the other day about Perret's writing that included the loss of bird life in France, in the 1950s, due to the mechanisation and pesticidisation of bigger industrial farms back then... Much of the wren species have gone.

The cascade of events was fairly swift from the introduction of insecticide (which in those days— 1950s — were mostly arsenic and soon organochlorines such as DDT. They were replaced in the U.S. by organophosphates and carbamates by 1975 — then nerve agents). No insects, no birds.

And the birds which ate grains were also destroyed by the DDT. See Silent Spring.





ban on DDT...


Silent Spring is an environmental science book by Rachel Carson.[1]The book was published on September 27, 1962, documenting the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting the industry's marketing claims unquestioningly.

Starting in the late 1950s, prior to the book's publication, Carson had focused her attention on environmental conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by syntheticpesticides. The result of her research was Silent Spring, which brought environmental concerns to the American public. The book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but, owing to public opinion, it brought about numerous changes. It spurred a reversal in the United States' national pesticide policy, led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses,[2] and helped to inspire an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[3][4]

Over three decades later, in 1996, a follow-up book, Beyond Silent Spring, co-written by H.F. van Emden and David Peakall, was published.[5][6] In 2006, Silent Spring was named one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover magazine.[7]


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We still have some problems with RoundUp and modern nerve agents insecticides...

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Often research is simplified to one product when THE COMBINATION OF SEVERAL CHEMICALS with pesticides induce cancer. It is well known that a combination of benign factors lead to deadly outcomes that a single benign factor could not generate or would generate in a lesser dramatic result. Some of the factors act like a key/trigger. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is one simple example of such deadly combinations.


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dying earlier...

A special report in the Observer newspaper in the UK on 23 June 2019 asked the question: Why is life expectancy faltering? The piece noted that for the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in Western Europe.

Aside from the figures for the elderly and the deprived, there has also been a worrying change in infant mortality rates. Since 2014, the rate has increased every year: the figure for 2017 is significantly higher than the one in 2014. To explain this increase in infant mortality, certain experts blame it on ‘austerity’, fewer midwives, an overstrained ambulance service, general deterioration of hospitals, greater poverty among pregnant women and cuts that mean there are fewer health visitors for patients in need.

While all these explanations may be valid, according to environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, there is something the mainstream narrative is avoiding. She says:

We are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food and weedkiller sprayed indiscriminately on our communities. The media remain silent.”

The poisoning of the UK public by the agrochemical industry is the focus of her new report – Why is life expectancy faltering: The British Government has worked with Monsanto and Bayer since 1949.

What follows are edited highlights of the text in which she cites many official sources and reports as well as numerous peer-reviewed studies in support of her arguments. Readers can access the report here.


Mason begins by offering a brief history of Monsanto in the UK. In 1949, that company set up a chemical factory in Newport, Wales, where it manufactured PCBs until 1977 and a number of other dangerous chemicals. Monsanto was eventually found to be dumping toxic waste in the River Severn, public waterways and sewerage. It then paid a contractor which illegally dumped thousands of tons of cancer-causing chemicals, including PCBs, dioxins and Agent Orange derivatives, at two quarries in Wales – Brofiscin (80,000 tonnes) and Maendy (42,000 tonnes) – between 1965 and 1972.

Monsanto stopped making PCBs in Anniston US in 1971 because of various scandals. However, the British government agreed to ramp up production at the Monsanto plant in Newport. In 2003, when toxic effluent from the quarry started leaking into people’s streams in Grosfaen, just outside Cardiff, the Environment Agency – a government agency concerned with flooding and pollution – was hired to clean up the site in 2005.

Mason notes that the agency repeatedly failed to hold Monsanto accountable for its role in the pollution (a role that Monsanto denied from the outset) and consistently downplayed the dangers of the chemicals themselves.

In a report prepared for the agency and the local authority in 2005 but never made public, the sites contain at least 67 toxic chemicals. Seven PCBs have been identified, along with vinyl chlorides and naphthalene. The unlined quarry is still leaking, the report says:

Pollution of water has been occurring since the 1970s, the waste and groundwater has been shown to contain significant quantities of poisonous, noxious and polluting material, pollution of… waters will continue to occur.”


Apart from these events in Wales, Mason outlines the overall toxic nature of Monsanto in the UK. For instance, she discusses the shockingly high levels of weedkiller in packaged cereals. Samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK were recently sent to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing. Dr Fagan, the director of the centre, says of the results:

These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).”

According to Mason, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission colluded with the European Glyphosate Task Force and allowed it to write the re-assessment of glyphosate. She lists key peer-reviewed studies, which the Glyphosate Task Force conveniently omitted from its review, from South America where GM crops are grown. In fact, many papers come from Latin American countries where they grow almost exclusively GM Roundup Ready Crops.


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switzerland set to ban 15 pesticides...

Switzerland’s Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) plans to look at the regulations on 15 pesticides containing the chemical chlorothalonil, an ingredient used since the 70s to protect fruit and cereal crops from disease.

Environmental groups will be given a chance to comment on the review, said FOAG.

Tests in parts of Switzerland have revealed high levels of chlorothalonil in ground water. Earlier this year, the drinking water in Belmont-Broye, a commune in the canton of Fribourg, was found to have excessive levels of the substance, according to the newspaper La Gruyere [in Switzerland a newspaper named after ... a Cheese? Gruyères is actually a town].

Chlorothalonil is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates and can cause kidney and stomach damage in humans and renal tumors in rodents and dogs, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In vitro tests done in the 90s show the substance has the potential to damage DNA. In addition, the use of the chemical may also be linked to declining bee populations. 

From 2020, chlorothalonil use will be banned across the EU, following a health risk warning by the European Food Safety Authority. The ban is likely to reduce crop yields and the cost of producing wheat could rise between 8% and 12%, according to NFU

One can only wonder how many more agrochemicals considered safe now will banned in the future.

More on this:
Federal Office for Agriculture press release (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now

For more stories like this on Switzerland follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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...don't want to protect birds and insects...

Disgruntled farmers blocked traffic by driving tractors through German cities in protest of new environmental regulations aimed at protecting birds and insects.

The protests took place in 17 cities across Germany, with the largest rally held in the western city of Bonn, where the Agriculture Ministry HQ is located. Angry farmers rolled out around 1,000 tractors onto the streets, blocking several major roads and bridges.


The farmers fear that the new environmental rules would damage their business. The measures, put forward by the government, limit the use of certain weed killers in order to protect field birds, like Eurasian skylarks, lapwings and partridges, as well as some insects.


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Organic farming uses less pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides than non-organic practices, and organic-farming advocates also claim it saves water and controls erosion.

Key points: 
  • Organic food crops mostly produce less CO2 emissions, but they also have smaller yields
  • Making up the difference in yield pushes organic emissions above non-organic
  • Reducing meat consumption could have bigger emissions savings than farming methods

But converting the world's agriculture to organic would actually produce far more carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new study. 

In a scenario in which England and Wales hypothetically switched to 100 per cent organic farming practices, researchers found organic methods typically had much lower nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of area farmed, thanks to the use of nitrogen-fixing plants rather than fertilisers.

Soil-carbon sequestration was also higher in organic crops, compared to non-organic.

But the volume of food grown per unit of area farmed organically was 40 per cent less than yields from conventional farming methods, according to the research, published in the journal Nature Communications today.


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What this Nature Communications magazine does not tell you about is the rate of "food waste", the destruction of natural habitats for insects and birds, and about "over-production" of food in which overabundant carelessness devalues the process. As well, organic crops can be managed better to reduce present emissions further. Has the Nature Communications study also incorporated the emissions and costs of industrial production of "poisons" and of fertilisers — and of the runoff consequences on, say, a Great barrier Reef...? What about world population reduction?

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toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects...

The UK-based Independent online newspaper recently published an article about a potential link between air pollution from vehicles and glaucoma. It stated that according to a new study air pollution is linked to the eye condition that causes blindness.

The report explained that researchers had looked at vision tests carried out on more than 111,000 people across Britain between 2006 and 2010 and cross-referenced results against levels of air pollution in their neighbourhoods. Those living in areas with higher amounts of fine particulate matter were at least 6% more likely to have glaucoma than those in the least polluted areas.

Glaucoma affects half a million people in the UK and can cause blindness if left untreated. However, the study cited by The Independent, published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, was unable to prove that air pollution was a trigger.

Following the article, environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason put together a 20-page report on glyphosate and has sent it out to key public health officials and media outlets, including The Independent’s editor. 

In her report, she states that the European Chemicals Agency classifies glyphosate as a substance that causes serious eye damage and is toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects. But she claims that the media still remains silent on the matter. Even in UK towns and cities, glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide is still being sprayed on weeds and super-weeds which have become Roundup-resistant.

Mason implores The Independent and other mainstream media outlets to write with honesty about the use and harmful effects of glyphosate-based weedicides and other agrochemicals. She quotes the UN expert on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, who in 2017 urged the EU to put children’s health before pesticides. 

Children form the most vulnerable part of the population as pesticides can adversely affect their development.

Offering insight into the incidence of cataracts in England, Mason notes that annual rates of admission for cataract surgery rose 10‐fold from 1968 to 2004: from 62 episodes per 100,000 population to 637.

A 2016 study by the WHO also confirmed that the incidence of cataracts had greatly increased: in ‘A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks’ it says that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Globally, cataracts are responsible for 51% of blindness. An estimated 20 million individuals suffer from this degenerative eye disease.

Mason discusses long waiting lists for cataracts in England. Because the NHS cannot cope with the pressure, private companies are cashing in. The growing demand for cataract operations is forcing the NHS to send increasing numbers of patients to be treated privately.

In Wales, where Mason resides, 35,000 patients are at risk of going blind from macular degeneration and glaucoma while on the NHS waiting list. All the municipal councils in Wales use glyphosate-based herbicides. Glyphosate now accounts for about 50% of all herbicide use in the US. 

About 75% of glyphosate use has occurred since 2006, with the global glyphosate market projected to reach $11.74 billion by 2023.

Figures for the use of glyphosate in the UK show a similar trend, which Mason has documented in her many reports. And let us not forget at this point that the current Conservative government regards Brexit as an ideal opportunity to usher in crops that have been genetically engineered to withstand the application of glyphosate or similar chemicals. The agrochemicals sector stands in the wings salivating at the prospect. 

This has nothing to do with boosting yields or ‘feeding the world’ as Boris Johnson asserts (claims which fail to stand up to scrutiny) but has everything to do with facilitating industry ambitions.

Never in history has a chemical been used so pervasively. Glyphosate is in our air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. It’s in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and mother’s breast milk. It’s even in our vaccines.

Of course, the power of the pesticides companies has been well noted. 

In 2017, global agrochemical corporations were severely criticised by UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver. A report presented to the UN human rights council accused them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions.

The report authored by Hilal Elver and Baskut Tuncak says pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”


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