“Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.” Samuel Johnson
So what is the problem with herbicides? To get an understanding, I will evaluate one herbicide in detail. The chemical Tordon 22K was listed on the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association website for control of leafy spurge and other weeds.
A quick overview read the material on the website provided by the company leaves you with the impression that eliminating the weeds that this product is designed for, is good for wildlife as well as government and industries. You infer that using Todon 22K has those same benefits, that this chemical is good for the environment as well as for government and industry. The work "Stewardship" is prominent and retained in your mind when you peruse the website. You are left with the impression that using Tordon 22K is safe and good for the environment and that by using it, you are a good steward of your land. The word "Expert" is also featured and you are left with the impression that experts are recommending the use of this product.
What the manufacturer website say about this product
-This is the only tool for effective control of deep-rooted perennials such as Leafy Spurge and Toadflax
-Residual. It provides control for an extended time between treatments
-It may take 5 years for it to be deactivated in the soil
-Clippings from grass or crops should not be used for mulching or composting
-Manure from animals fed the forage from treated fields should not be used with susceptible plants
-It should not be sprayed within a distance of 1.5 times the height of the trees or shrubs
What MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)
-Can cause eye irritation
-Decomposition gases are toxic
-moderately toxic to aquatic organisms
-is NOT readily Biodegradable according to OECD test guidelines
-Bioaccumulation is moderate
-Mobility in the soil is very high
What does the manufacturer label say about Tordon 22K
Do not apply to soils that are very permeable (textures of sandy loam to sand) throughout the entire profile and which also have an underlying shallow aquifer.
Do not apply to soils containing sinkholes over limestone bedrock.
Do not apply to soils whose surfaces are composed of severely fractured rock or unconsolidated gravel
and underlaid with an aquifer.
TOXIC to aquatic organisms and non-target terrestrial plants. Observe buffer zones specified under DIRECTIONS FOR USE.
Picloram is persistent and will carryover. It is recommended that any products containing picloram not be used in areas treated with this product during the previous season.
The use of this chemical may result in contamination of groundwater particularly in areas where soils are permeable (e.g. sandy soil) and/or the depth to the water table is shallow.
To reduce runoff from treated areas into aquatic habitats avoid application to areas with a moderate to steep slope, compacted soil, or clay.
Avoid application when heavy rain is forecast.
Contamination of aquatic areas as a result of runoff may be reduced by including a vegetative strip between the treated area and the edge of the water body.(1)
So this is a product that lasts for years, is toxic to fish and to aquatic plants, does not breakdown easily, can kill shrubs and trees and remains toxic to trees, shrubs and other plants even in the manure of animals that eat treated forage and in the water that it gets into.
If this product gets into ground water, it will not breakdown because it only breaks down in water with exposure to sunlight in water.
I am not able to find on the internet what percent of farmers comply completely with the instructions on the product label. But I am assured by a concerned farmer's wife that not many would read the directions carefully and follow them.
Because of its persistence in the soil and its mobility in the water, The EPA Environmental Fate and Water Branch recommended that picloram should not be reregistered because its use would pose unreasonable adverse effects to the environment.(2)
Review of Dangers of using Tordon 22K
-Surface runoff and persistance in water unless exposed to sunlight
-Toxicity to fish in low concentrations
-Toxicity to non target species such as shrubs and trees and water plants such as milfoil
-Persistence in ground water
-Persistance in the manure of animals that graze on the treated pastures or with treated forage
-Persistance of this chemical in the soil
-The many conditions that Tordon 22K should not be used i.e. clay soils, compacted soils, gravelling or clay soils with an aquifer, sloped soils, and soils near a body of water. The many types of soils, where this product is not to be used describe most of Manitoba soils
-detrimental effect on the wildlife due to the loss of non target plants, trees and shrubs
-detrimental effect to wildlife in bodies of water due to the loss of plants and fish
The polished website of the manufacturer of this product is very misleading. This is not a safe product. It really should not be used on most of Manitoba's soils given that Manitoba has mostly clay and compacted soils. And that there is so much marshland and ponds in Manitoba. The reality is that this product is that is has a long lasting destructive effect on the soil, water and plants and animals. We have to ask ourselves how much we want to compromise the plants and animals in our biome.
We have to ask ourselves how much of an impact does this chemical have compared to the weed it is supposed to control?
When you look closely at the problems of leafy spurge, you discover
-this weed is not a problem of cultivated fields.
-That it not all that toxic to cattle and that cattle can be taught to graze it in as little as 8 days. (3)
-As well, there is biological control available with beetles. (4)
So when we choose to use a poison, one with long lasting and devastating environmental effects, we are neither being safe nor using expertise. In fact we are contributing to the destruction of the wildlife of Manitoba's biome. Rather than demonstrating expertise and stewardship, we are demonstrating stupidity and ignorance.
Manitoba is where I was born and where I have spent most of the five and one half decades of my life. I lived on the outskirts of the town of Portage La Prairie at a time when tadpoles and frogs inhabited the ditches and ponds, when there were many Monarch butterflies each summer along with dragon flies and grasshoppers. Redwing blackbirds perched the cattails of the ditches. As children we picked dandelions for bouquets and made wishes before blowing dandelion seed heads. We searched clover for lucky four leaves and rolled on the grass…there was no concern of poisonous herbicides. The grass was thick. Wherever we dug…there were earthworms