It’s a really dirty word in many circles. We know that there are many conflicting reports on this herbicide, and some studies have been proven blatantly false, both for and against the product. But recently, during the first of several hundred lawsuits, it was revealed that Monsanto who produces glyphosate, and the EPA who approves its use in the USA, both lied in documentation that has been used the world over to approve and debate the links this chemical has to multiple health concerns.
Monsanto was one producer responsible for Agent Orange, a herbicide used during wars, especially known for its use during the Vietnam War by the US, to exfoliate forests removing concealment and targeting crops, attacking food sources. The environmental and health impacts are still apparent today. It has been linked to multiple cancers, birth defects, and the contamination continues to impact the citizens of Vietnam, poisoning their food chain and causing illness. While Glyphosate is deemed safe and not toxic to humans by Monsanto and its corporate partners, including governments, Monsanto has made the same claims about Agent Orange.
Glyphosate is used on farms in crop control and more predominantly in our neck of the woods, literally, on the forests. It is part of a very troubling equation in many parts of the world, that is impacting our forests and is one issue that people are having a great deal of difficulty relating to their governments.
Spraying of glyphosate is one step in the pulping of our forests. It is used to kill off deciduous or broad-leafed species of trees and shrubs and other plants, while allowing for the softwood conifers to grow. More and more residents of Nova Scotia are losing hope that our Acadian forest will survive the rate of clear cutting currently occurring here, all to feed the mills and biomass plants that are some of our worst polluters. And even greater concern exists over these destructive and toxic management practices that are rapidly replacing our mixed forests with monoculture pulp farms. It is also used extensively by NS Power to keep their transmission lines clear of trees and shrubs, a task easily managed by humans before glyphosate became a preferred method. There has always been concern about the health risks for humans and wildlife.
In Nova Scotia, for three spray seasons now, the public have become more and more vocal in their opposition. While there has always been consistent opposition, for decades, when the IARC stated in 2015 that glyphosate may be a carcinogen, the people expected their government to hit pause on its use. The Precautionary Principle is part of our legislation. And we expect the government to abide by it. If there are doubts, do not proceed. But, every August, and sometimes in between, NS Environment posts its list of approvals for thousands of acres to be sprayed. NS Power gets a ten year approval. This year, after Dwayne Johnson, diagnosed with terminal Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, was awarded $289 Million in a California Court, based on the evidence against Monsanto for their dishonesty about the product’s safety, one really starts to wonder if our government understands its role. Are they here to protect us? Or are they here to wipe us out? They certainly aren’t acting like they’re working in the best interests of the people….
The government continues to take guidance from corporations. Self serving profit driven corporations. They might look to see what other governments are doing, and currently, a majority of governments are relying on the big dollars supporting corporate driven environmental goals. This is a recipe for disaster. Corporations pay for studies. Monsanto spends 10% of their expenditure on studies, that help them develop and expand on their products. Companies buy goal driven reports every single day. We are well aware as well that Monsanto sponsors scientific sounding groups and “boards” who publish pro-glyphosate propaganda and participate in a full on war against any evidence presented to support the IARC’s findings or any other independent studies’ reports. Groups like the Genetics Literacy Project, International Life Sciences Institute and Academics Review all sound official enough, and they among others write articles that are published via major media outlets, and scientists accept funding to produce reports that obviously don’t delve into the full or accurate dialogue about their testing, studies or the fact that Glyphosate requires even more toxic partners to be effective.
More and more though, every day, the facts about Glyphosate are making their way to the front. And more and more the public have a requirement that is not being fulfilled. They want their health and wellbeing and their best interests to be a priority in government decisions about toxins and pollution.
This last month, a number of things occurred that gave me a lot to think, and therefore, write about.
It was reported that glyphosate is linked to blue-green algae which has been impacting important water bodies, specifically Lake Erie and many water source resources across North America. It has been linked with dissolved reactive phosphorus volumes in runoffs from farms using Round-Up Ready crops. Phosphorus has long been known to cause the blue-green algae, which makes the water undrinkable and kills aquatic life by suffocation, and the increase in cases coincided directly with the onset of Round-Up in agriculture. Blue-green algae blooms are cropping up all over Nova Scotia. Several dogs in NB died after swimming in water where blue-green algae was present.
Then we started seeing reports on a study that links Glyphosate to autism. With the increase of this condition in children, the news that a possible cause had been identified, was both worth a great deal of further study and an immense sense of grief that our food and water has been contaminated by this toxin and so too have our children. Common and very popular cereals have been reported to contain glyphosate as well as cotton based products like diapers and tampons. One in 68 children are identified in the autism spectrum. This weeks reports on an MIT study suggest 1 in every 2 children will be autistic by 2025. It is so important that we do follow up on these reports, that we do more studies on this and that we do them with real honesty and with human safety goals in mind. It is time for governments to get serious about this issue.
As forest fires burned across BC and other parts of Canada, multiple discussions erupted over the use of glyphosate in forest management. Deciduous trees act as firebreaks where they exist, due to their lower combustible nature unlike their conifer counterparts. The forest floors are drier and warmer in the absence of natural undergrowths. There is talk too, that monocultural softwood forests are contributing to global warming as their dark needles attract the heat of the sun 12 months of the year. Without the balance of broadleaf deciduous growth, the forests are helping bake the earth.
On August 14th, I wrote to the Minister of Environment. I had a couple of concerns. I wrote about the recent court case in the US, highlighting the fact that Monsanto was found to have knowingly and willingly allowed their product to be used while falsely denying its carcinogenic nature. I asked the Minister to consider the facts brought forth in this court case, and to refrain from issuing further permits. I asked her to ensure the Precautionary Principle was being upheld.
I also wrote about a troubling local concern. Northern Pulp has published an ad stating they would commence spraying forests in three counties. They stated it was an annual measure. But a quick check of the approvals list on NS Environment’s website, disclosed that no approval had been issued to Northern Pulp in 2018. Their previous permit had expired in 2017. I asked the Minister if there was another approval coming, or was an extension issued. I asked if the Minister would notify Northern Pulp that it is illegal to spray without an active approval if none was going to be issued to them in 2018.
On August 28th I received an email back, with a letter attached. The Minister cited a Health Canada report list via a non-functioning web link as a source for more information regarding the safe and risk free nature of glyphosate use in Canada. I copied and pasted the link she provided, so it wasn’t a transposal error on my part. The link doesn’t work. I am not sure if Health Canada disabled the link, or if it speaks to the hollow nature of the response I received or if it is an unsuccessful attempt at deflection on the Minister’s part to make me think she had her facts straight. No matter, though. The web link referenced 2017, so obviously had not taken any of the recent findings or the evidence in Mr. Johnson’s lawsuit into consideration. She cited the regulations in Nova Scotia around approvals for use and certification for applicators. And she provide the link to Nova Scotia’s Pesticide Regulations.
So. I got nothing. A two page non-answer. No response regarding the latest data around Glyphosate and nothing on Northern Pulp. And as of posting this, there is still no approval listed for them to spray in 2018.
This week I visited the community of Bouctouche, NB with my family. Spraying and clearcutting is a major concern in New Brunswick, and more concerning there, the government allows spraying on crown lands, a practice prohibited in Nova Scotia since 2010, although that may change in the near future if the NS Liberals have their way.
Bouctouche is the home town of JD Irving, Kent Homes and is a prime example of conscience clearing in the minds of many folks I talked to. New Brunswick is pretty much owned and controlled by the Irving family. They cut where they want, spray where they want and have amassed a fortune in the forests of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. But back home, KC saw the value in preservation and conservation. While I was blown away by the incredible work done, and the ideals and value of that work, it struck a nerve in me, amplified by those I have heard from.
There is a Plantation in the township, created by Jean Irving (funded by her husband JK) which is a plot of over 100 acres of gardens and pathways and trails through various beautifully laid out clusters and forests of over 5500 species of trees, native to our zone. There is also the Irving Eco Centre, a preservation site on an incredible and precious dune extending out from the shore 12 kms across the Bay of Bouctouche. Both sites, as well as the various trails and memorials and parks across the area, are absolutely beautiful and should be revered for their committed roles in conservation. But the Irving Family is wealthy because of their forestry and pulp industries, as well as oil refining along with various other industries. They have become billionaires at the expense of public lands, and thanks to the rules they have written for themselves. They have turned 30% of the province’s crown lands into pulp farms. I do not know how much land they own privately, but I am sure it could be figured out. And their practice of clear cut and spray that impacts the wildlife habitats and contaminates the rivers and streams, cuts down the Acadian Forest…. this contrast is what many feel hangs over the wonderful and essential public spaces, that teach the rest of us why their industrial operations require these conservation sites to exist.
Right before I left for Bouctouche, I learned of an intriguing and puzzling fact. While I was trying to work out why the Government of Nova Scotia refuses to give us a break on spraying, I was given new information. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has a similar relationship observed between industries in Nova Scotia Scotia and the regulators in our provincial government. There appears to be a back and forth of well paid positions between Monsanto and the regulator in the US. Well our bureaucracy is known to be populated by industry people, especially forestry, energy and environment. That has been a major concern for quite some time. But the bureaucracy has longer extensions into the corporate world in the form of crown corporations. A lot of attention was paid to Laura Broten being hired to head Nova Scotia Business, Inc. But it was new information for me, that one of the lead managers at NSBI, is a former Monsanto executive.
John Ludovice is a former General Manager and Country Manager, overseeing operations for Monsanto in South East Asia, primarily the Phillipines and Indonesia. He is now a Director of Investment Attraction at NSBI. How does a Monsanto executive, running the corporate operations in multiple countries in South East Asia, end up in Nova Scotia, Canada? With all the talk of business development with China, it’s not hard to tell where he might be working hardest to attract investment and one wonders what direction we are really headed here. There is good cause to ask oneself if there is a historic relationship between Mr. Ludovich and the Widjaja family (Sinar Mas) who own Northern Pulp. They were likely very important consumers of Monsanto products in Indonesia during Mr Ludovich’s time in that region.