In the Aug. 10 edition of the Chronicle Herald, Aaron Beswick reported that Diane Burham and Rocky Irons are concerned about herbicide spraying of a large woodlot behind their house on the Gulf Shore Road. The herbicide to be applied is Visonmax, a product that contains glyphosate.
In my previous columns concerning this chemical I suggested that readers get their hands on a copy of Carey Gillam's book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science. Gillam did the research. She wrote about the development of glyphosate and then pointed to its increased usage. As it turns out...more and more of this product must be used to achieve results. Monsanto had developed this herbicide and the company went to extensive lengths to cover up the risks. The company had enough wealth and political clout to have a stronghold over policymakers and regulators.
The Gillam book was published in 2017. In 2015 the World Health Organization indicated that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic. In 2017 Health Canada reviewed research and indicated that glyphosate was unlikely to pose a human cancer risk. Some folks doubted that finding and MP Bill Casey was asked to review the legality of glyphosate approval in the summer of 2018. Then in August of 2018, U.S. citizen Dewayne Johnson was awarded $289 million dollars against Monsanto. Johnson developed Non-Hodgkin's lymphona after using Round-up in his job as a grounds-keeper. He is the first to take the agrochemical company to court. Part of the verdict stated that Monsanto “acted with malice” in that they knew or should have known the chemicals were dangerous.
So here is the concern for me...and probably a huge portion of the population. Roundup is used in fields which grow our food. Roundup is used for weed control, and it can also be used later in the season to allow for an early harvest of oats. The main chemical in Roundup is glyphosate. Oats are used in a lot of the foods we eat and also feed children...and tests have shown the presence of glyphosate in popular oat cereals.
Then we have the use of glyphosate on our forests. At this time of year sections of forests are sprayed with Visonmax to kill the hardwood. There are large corporations, such as Northern Pulp and Irving who want to produce large amounts of softwood in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Helicopters or planes fly overhead and spray the chemical, or land based machinery might be used.
I earned my private pilots license back in the 1990s. I understand winds...and I also know how fickle winds can be in our region within just a half an hour. Winds can be very mild then become very strong, and winds can change direction within a short time period. Even the best weather forecasters can't always predict these kinds of occurrences. An herbicide sprayed over an area in our region can travel beyond the intended area.
Spraying with a helicopter is most often the method of application, but even with the use of land based machinery the chemical can travel. Rains can wash the chemical into streams and rivers. Large areas of forest are clear-cut, and clear-cutting invites soil erosion and erases a suitable environment for forest animals, birds, and insects.
In 2016 a German company, Bayer, bought into Monsanto's seed and herbicide interests for $66 billion. This merger makes the joint corporation wealthier than 120 countries. That kind of wealth means power...and as Carey Gillam indicated power can result in a whitewash.
I read Carey Gillam's book. She did the research. She clearly documents the harmful affects of glyphosate...and she also points to the numerous cover-ups where Monsanto produced their own research to prove the safety of their product...and at times influenced outside research. Monsanto tried to silence Gillam but her research withstood all tests. This book is a must read.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.