Fight underway on toxic manure

Date Published: 23/07/2008

The Organic Growers Alliance has kicked off a battle to keep a hormone herbicide, that apparently distorts vegetable growth, out of the countryside.

As I couldn’t find a link to this online, I’ll reproduce the text of the OGA press release here. It’s worth a read:

Growers angered by toxic manure threat

The Organic Growers Alliance has this week written to the Health and Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency and the Pesticides Safety Directorate calling for an immediate ban on the use of the hormone herbicide aminopyralid on UK farms.

Aminopyralid has been named as the culprit in the recent media reports of distorted growth in vegetable crops in many back gardens and allotments all over the UK, but it is becoming apparent that commercial growers, both organic and conventional are at risk of being affected.

Aminopyralid is a hormone herbicide cleared for use on UK farms to control broadleaf weeds on grassland. It has become evident however that the herbicide is very persistent and when the sprayed grass is consumed, either directly or as hay or silage, the product travels through the animals gut, persists in an active form in the manure and if the manure is then used to grow a vegetable crop causes distortion or failure of growth in susceptible species such as potatoes, tomatoes and the pea and bean families.

As aminopyralid is not cleared for use on crops intended for human consumption it is unclear as to whether contaminated crops are safe to eat. The latest comment on the PSD website posted on 11th July states that produce SHOULD be safe to eat. Does this mean if there was a case of contamination in commercial crops that they are safe to sell? The Organic Growers Alliance has asked each of the agencies for a public comment on the safety of contaminated crops and how land that manure has been spread on should be treated.

Alan Schofield, Chair of the Alliance said: “At the moment reports are coming in from amateur gardeners but aminopyralid has the potential to enter the human food chain through commercial vegetables grown using contaminated manures. Many vegetable crops are grown using manures and have been for millennia. The decision to allow this product to be used on UK farms has had the effect of turning an extremely valuable, recyclable resource into toxic waste. We call for its immediate withdrawal until the full extent of the contamination is known.”

Dow AgroSciences were warning farmers in November last year to be careful when disposing of manures as there were instances of damage to potato crops in 2007 crops resulting from failure to observe the label warnings regarding following crops on grassland herbicides.

Alan Schofield added: “American gardeners have been suffering for years and it is ludicrous that the Pesticide Safety Directorate has licensed this product for use in the UK, without fully warning all growers of the potential dangers.”