They sell dreams, we pay
Ronald Nigh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sun, 19 May 1996 12:59:02 -0600
>Both these herbicides *at present* effectively kill virtually all vegetative
>growth and in a competitive crop situation should be very effective. People
>using these varieties may be able to replace two to four sprayings
>of other herbicides with one or two sprayings of Roundup, an improvement
>in safety and cost. It should be possible to eliminate certain
>weed species completely from the crop situation, though there
>will inevitably be a shift towards species and cultivars which are
>resistant. Still, the spectrum of remaining weeds should be easier to
>manage by other means, including organic techniques, than the broad
>spectrum of weeds that exist now.
Reading this paragraph brought a lump to my throat. I could see the faces of
so many poor farmers who have said similar things to me, wanting to believe
what the pesticide salesman promises. The trouble is, even with the biotech
twist, its never come true and it never will. In Chiapas we listen to radio
ads every hour, in Spanish and three Maya Indian languages, for paraquat
(called Gramazone here), promising an end to weeds and assure high
productivity and more money for farmers. It's perfectly safe and doesn't
hurt the environment, we are told. (Then why is it banned in the US?) People
buy it and use--I don't have to tell you how and why that happens. And it
works, for a while. Then when paraquat resistant grasses and other nasties
come in, not to worry, Roundup (Faena) kills everything, Of course its twice
as expensive. Meanwhile, weeds continue to grow, productivity continues to
decline and money for farming families is scarcer every year.
There are alternatives, even here in the tropics where weeds grow fast, it
never freezes and, talk about a "broad spectrum"... In one season of green
manure we eliminated grass and brought back a most welcome broad spectrum of
broad leaf plants--we'll be able to plant corn, no herbicides, but of course
we'll have to weed manually. Of course, this field has never been sprayed.
On a field thats been hit with Gramaxone and Faena for a few years it's not
so easy to get it back. Now that we have shown it time and time again,
people begin to believe, hope, that maybe what little money they have won't
go for chemicals.
Roundup will not solve your problem for long, as you yourself said. There
is just no reason to believe that the resistant varieties that will
eventually be there will be easier to handle than the "broad specturm" you
have now--on the contrary. What will you spray to kill something that
Round-up won't kill? I'm sure the biotech companies will have a "package"
for you to buy. Who do you want to work for? Will it be easier after a few
more years of spraying (and paying) to finance the transition? Will your
soil be in better condition to recover its natural diversity and fertility?
No farmer can really afford transition (in Mexico, imagine, with a total
annual income of say, US $500) But putting it off with chemicals only makes
it more expensive. I really sympathize with your dilemma. I don't know where
you farm or what your other problems are but if you were a Maya farmer here
I would (and do) say "Just say no" to chemicals patented seeds.Good luck.