INTERVIEW WITH MICHIEL VAN ANDEL
Why is glyphosate an important tool on your farm?
Weeds are the number one reason why yields are compromised. They form a bigger threat than for instance diseases or drought. Especially at the start of the growing season they compete for nutrients and sunlight. I only use glyphosate directly after sowing, before the crop sprouts, to give them a clean start. I use 2 liter per hectare, diluted in 300 liter water.
There are other options. My neighbour is an organic farmer, and he uses a harrow multiple times. This means a lot more tractor movements over the fields, using more diesel. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
How do you deal with the pressure of society?
There is so much misinformation in the public sphere. People think for instance the glyphosate is carcinogenic, because of a judgement by the IARC. But this is an outlier, all other institutes like the EPA, the EFSA, the german BfR have concluded it is not. Glyphosate is one of the safest molecules around, with a toxicity lower than caffeine or table salt.
Glyphosate is being demonized because of its connection to genetically modified crops, mainly soy. It has become a symbol of everything people dislike about the modern food production system: deforestation, monoculture, monsanto etcetera. The attack on glyphosate is an attack on a farming system as a whole, it is not science based.
What would a ban on glyphosate mean for farmers?
The alternatives to glyphosate are not necessarily more environmentally friendly. Farmers have to plough their field more, or use propane burners to kill weeds. Others return to older, less safe pesticides, or use more manual labour, which increases costs, but also means less rest on the land, thereby disturbing biodiversity. Debates around food production are in the media often simplified as bad versus good. There has to be a more nuanced discussion about the effects of certain measures.
Why do you think this documentary is necessary?
Many people think the anti-glyphosate lobby is an idealistic grassroot movement, but this is not the case. There is big money behind it, for instance from the organic industry. It would be good if people are informed about the shady methods and goals of this lobby.