Index Home About Blog
From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Unsterilized syringes (was Re: Mad Cows and English Beef
Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 13:38:27 +0100

In article <>, Jim Scanlon
<> writes

>Farmers are not the only ones who administer drugs to animals. Several
>years ago I wrote an article on Ivermectin, a powerful drug which kills
>paracites in horses, cattle etc.
>I tried to get an estimate of the amound of the drug sold in my county. I
>had some concern that the drug was being expelled along with the manure
>and was killing flies and worms that helped in decomposition and then
>getting into a nearby trout stream and killing aquatic insects.
>The drug was sold over the counter. I came up with an rough estimate from
>talking to two feed store owners who sold the drug. One owner told me that
>owners of horses they loved frequently double dosed their beloved animals
>to protect them from bot flies. It is cerainly understandable.

This also caused concern in the UK. Recent trials have shown that it is
not a problem at all *at normal dose rates*.

I really cannot understand why people overdose their stock, or indeed
their crops. With the correct product this should not be required.

I suspect part of the reason might be the experience of ineffective
application of *garden* pesticides. Frequently the products are badly
applied and badly mixed, so they do not work. Alongside that is the
selling point 'spray them today, eat them tomorrow' which suggests VERY
low doses of active ingredient. The same chemical applied in agriculture
almost certainly has a harvest interval of seven days, and more often
21, but it works. This might well lead people to habitually increase the
dose by two or three times to get it to work, thus giving a false
impression that all agricultural pesticides are like that. They aren't,
and farmers know this. Indeed many farmers habitually apply half doses,
or even less.

So if your garden product doesn't work at the approved rates then
*change products to one that does*.

'Oz     "When I knew little, all was certain. The more I learnt,
        the less sure I was. Is this the uncertainty principle?"

From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture,sci.environment
Subject: Re: Pesticides and Reproduction
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 07:50:08 +0100

In article <4ru6n8$>, Torsten Brinch <iaotb@inet.uni-> writes
>Oz wrote:
>>Could you give some examples of legally distributed chemicals that are
>>currently profoudly affecting wildlife?
>By using 'currently' it seems to me that you suggests
>that we have, in the past, done some stupid things, and
>by experience grown wiser. I think this is to some extent
>true. I fear though that there is still miles to walk.

Typical human behaviour when the going is good, I would say.   :-)

>By using 'profoundly' it seems to me that you restrict
>your view to dramatic, clearly visible influences on
>wildlife (massive tilts, quick and dirty wipe-outs).

No, I was really meaning scientifically 'generally accepted'.
This to remove bias and rumour and heresay that this area is rather
prone to call 'facts'.

>While we have certainly become more sophisticated in our
>choice of wonder-chemicals, this may exactly have pushed
>the adverse effects beyond direct observation.

Unobservable is good. I expect you will now give a list of 'observable'
changes and attribute them to OP's without evidence.

>a) Legally distributed chemical which are shown to be profoundly
>affecting wildlife are usually banned (after a suitable delay
>as a courtesy to the thick-headed).

One bit of important wildlife is, of course, the spray operator.

>b) Profound effects on wildlife would to most people
>mean scattered corpses of large visible animals
>for everyone to observe. Nature does not work this way.
>- Corpses tend to be eaten, not to be put on display
>- Animals tend to crouch unnoticed somewhere when poisoned
>(i.e. unless the effects are really, really PROFOUND
>nobody will notice)

This level of damage would be gross. I would agree with you. I accept
MUCH lower levels, significantly reduced fish numbers or predator
numbers where this can be shown to be directly due to the products.

>c) If we take wildlife in a broader sense, i.e. include
>smaller animals, earthliving small-creatures, bugs etc.
>effects can go very far without being noticed.
>(who cares, anyway?)

Me. However within the target area (ie within the field) I would like to
know the effects and in general take the decision. I would be unhappy
about SIGNIFICANT lower-animal mortality outside the target area.

>d) With the restrictions imposed by a)-c) acute effects
>are most easily observed/avoided, whereas chronic effects are
>more elusive and difficult to prove. There is often
>a lot of confounding factors in a human-influenced environment.
>(ecotoxicology has some really tough methodological problems
>-- add: that funding is severely limited)

Lets be fair here. Modern pesticides (at least in Britain) have to go
through very serious lifetime and ecological studies, including
metabolites. The cost is currently circa UKP 15M per product and rising.
The funding is there, and the people giving the registration are pretty
tough. Indeed many international chemical companies are cutting back
developement because unless the product is a world beater, they can
never make any money. This is quite serious as far as feeding the world
in 30 years time is concerned, when it will be too late.

>e) Acute effects are seen when wildlife are exposed
>to high doses of acutely toxic pesticides
>  the use of massive doses of insecticides (and some fungicides)
>  as _seed_ treatments or granulates
>  (i.e. toxic candies in the school yard)

I bet the old treatment (mercury) that was used in the UK up until a
couple of years ago was worse, dating from way back (pre-war?). In
practice it never reduced the pigeon or sparrow population to anything
less than plague.

>f) whatever the reason, a very _large_ proportion of
>the animal species, traditionally inhabiting  farmland in Denmark,
>have been declining in density for the last 30-40 years:
>Examples of some of the larger of these species:
>-Passer domesticus, house sparrow: large flocks could be seen
>roaming the cereal fields each autumn 30 years ago --
>small pockets survive in cities and on fringe islands.

Interesting, this. Here we had a large number of sparrows in the
farmyard, always have. A couple of years ago we had (for the first time
in 20 years) a resident sparrow hawk. Now we have almost no sparrows,
and almost no tits, and the winter visitors to our bird table are
goldfinches (previously rareish). We do still have our sparrow hawk.
Presumably the reduction in pesticides has improved raptor breeding and
reduced passerine numbers. Typical nature really. This sort of thing
upsets many "oh what a beautiful hawk, how nice", "bloody farmers are
killing all the birds"!

>-Emberiza calandra, Corn Bunting:
>has withdrawn to fringe areas without extensive farming

Of course, that's it's natural habitat.

>-Perdix perdix, Partridge:
>the stock has declined dramatically for decades, seems to
>have stabilised at an all time low, may be coming back,
>possibly caused by a change of insecticide use pattern.
>Food scarcity (insects for chicken) seem to have led to
>low reproductive success -- in the organophosphate era.

Little or no change in 20 years here, by observation. The numbers seem
to be critically dependent on summer weather. A warm spell in spring for
the first brood, and a warm dry open autumn can jack up numbers
substantially (huge coveys of young birds). The reverse and numbers are
well down. This year has been a bad spring for them.

>-Lepus europaeus, European Brown hare:
>the stock has declined dramatically for decades, some of
>the recent decline has been shown to be caused by
>unprecedentedly poor reproductive success (subject header!).
>Noone know the reason, but chronic effects of pesticides can
>certainly not be ruled out, as hares are grazing
>young crops, which are mostly heavily contaminated with

You have GOT to be joking!!!
Numbers here are plentiful, regardless of the level of pesticide use.

However *illegal* hare coursing (lots of greyhound-cross hunting dogs)
can strip all the hares for several miles in every direction in a few
weekends. You can go from better to a hare per hectare to none in a
month, and there is little you can do about it in the UK. Regularly
coursed areas have almost no hares.

>h) There is some evidence, that arthropode wildlife in freshwater
>streams are affected each year by contamination with
>pesticides (probably the synth. pyrethroids) This effect
>has only emerged in the last couple of years after
>the profound effects! of discharge of phosphate,
>ammonium and nitrate were brought under some control,
>and it was observed that the clean water fauna did not

Daphnia seems particulary sensitive. On the other hand our ditches
contain many small fish, eagerly hunted by a pair of herons, and we have
herbicide sensitive plants on the ditch side (eg vetches and cowslips)
right up to 150mm of the (treated) crop. I know of the purported
possible problem with low level pesticides in ditches, but my experience
makes me wonder if direct pollution (eg direct overspraying or washings)
isn't the major cause, and this CAN be identified and the person fined.
In the UK we now have strict 6M zones round ditches of all types where
certain chemicals may not be sprayed. I think this is overkill.

>g) Several studies of those bird species which have been
>observed to decline over the last few decades
>show consistently:
>- a higher number of these species
>- a higher density of each species
>on organic farms when compared with matched non-organic farms.

Indeed, I would expect this on arable organic farms since there are lots
of insect pests to be eaten. Since stock farms rarely use much in the
way of herbicides, and almost never use field insecticides, it's harder
to place the blame. In my experience mixed farming is quite helpful.
Skylarks that breed in arable fields (where they are safe and
undisturbed) and feed in ajacent grass fields where food is plentiful,
seem to do quite well.

Much of the reduction in bird wildlife is, I am afraid, due to higher
levels of sanitation around the farm. Farms have been historically
filled with by far the largest quantity of food for wildlife, usually in
a highly available situation. Now all stores must be kept clear of
rodents and sealed up safely. Smelly old muckheaps strategically dotted
over the landscape (often for years) provided insect food by the ton for
local birds and small mammals (and grass snakes). The odd dead sheep on
the mountain fed raptors ..... Now it's all cleaned up and these
important food sources are gone.

Twenty years ago we had a corn store on the Downs. It was isolated at
the end of a dead-end road and was well stocked with rats and mice. We
of course had a pair of resident barn owls in the wood above. Then we
got complaints, people had seen rats and mice. Shock, horror, end of the
world. The inspector called. So we sorted out the store, got rid of all
the mice, and we have never seen a barn owl since then. No rats and
mice, no food for owls, no owls. They were not called BARN owls for
nothing. Collared doves are going the same way.

'Oz     "When I knew little, all was certain. The more I learnt,
        the less sure I was. Is this the uncertainty principle?"

From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture,sci.environment
Subject: Re: Pesticides and Reproduction
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 09:31:59 +0100

In article <>, Paul
Savage <> writes

>Yes that might be so. My question was relating to the consumption of these
>genetically engineered pest resistant plants with their in-built
>pesticides of probably unknown chemical composition.

Heck, you don't even need genetically engineered plants for this. Normal
breeding can do it too. Two cases I have come across.

One was a potato that was actually on the verge of being distributed
throughout the US when one of the trials people took some home to eat.
He became seriously ill, and one of his friends who came over (who
happened to be an expert in the field) commented that he was showing all
the symptoms of poisoning from the solanine group of poisons. Tests then
showed that there were lethal quantities in this variety of potato. It
was rapidly withdrawn.

The second was a pest resistant species of celery. The packing staff all
came down with serious skin rashes and vesicles. It also was rapidly

These are produce where the level of toxins was so high as to be
unmistakable and clearly identifiable with the vegetable in question.
One wonders how many are not so easy to detect, and may be causing low
level poisoning throughout a population. Incidentally, it doesn't even
require plant breeding to produce a poison. Many ordinary vegetables are
known to contain toxic substances at low level. Mind you this 'low
level' is usually orders of magnitude more than any pesticide residues.

'Oz     "When I knew little, all was certain. The more I learnt,
        the less sure I was. Is this the uncertainty principle?"

From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Pesticides and Reproduction
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 07:34:50 +0100

In article <4tmjbu$>, Grimm Albert
<> writes

>We do not use heavy spray schedules during all weeks of the year since
>the time that IPM methods became better known. In essence we are
>trying to catch the pests when they are most vulnerable. E.g. we try
>to kill a new generation of insects immediately after hatching  before
>they have a chance to lay new eggs. But this means spraying very
>thoroughly on 2 to 3 day schedules for a week or so, and if it works
>we have peace until the next wave of pests arrives on the plants. When
>we get good results with each spray, we have to spray less often.

This is something I have observed in conventional agriculture (like 15
years ago). Our specifications for pest levels are, of course, less
stringent than yours. However a low rate spray at the correct timing
(early) can both prevent damage and reduce the need for a full rate
spray later when pests are well established. Have you considered cooling
your spraysuit somehow, I know it sounds daft but I bet it would
significantly reduce the stress on you.

>I love my profession and would not want to work in any other field.
>Agricultural salaries are certainly modest in comparison with
>industrial jobs, but at least we can get mere pleasure out of our
>daily work and for me that is worth more than money. Spraying is just
>part of the job. However, I could clearly link my observation of
>sometimes beeing tired and moody to periods of heavy spraying of
>certain sustances, and it just interested me if it is possible that
>some pesticides can influence psychical well beeing,  and whether
>anybody has ever investigated in this direction.

I think if you searched for 'sheep dipping' or spoke to Torsten Brinch
(who has a paranoid thing about OP's) you could locate a source on the
symptoms of poisoning. What you report is (from memory) similar to OP
poisoning. You should perhaps investigate.

>Problems like all these are what I meant when I had earlier asked for
>agricultural scientists to communicate more with growers. I do not
>think that many of them realize what practical work in greenhouses or
>on farms is like. I think, with a little bit of cooperation THEY could
>help us to find PRACTICAL solutions to make our work somewhat easier.

The inherent problem is that legislators do not legislate to ensure the
safety of the operators, but the safety of the legislators. As long as
they are seen to be doing something, however impractical and in some
cases counter productive, then they have covered their backs. Gloves are
a good example. All gloves have a limited resistance to absorbtion and
they then become a very very significant hazard if used. Thick gloves
greatly increase the chance of spillage because you lose a lot of
dexterity and feel which increases contamination still more. The obvious
solution is thin disposable gloves that are used once for each tank fill
and then discarded. They should be supplied with every pack or box of
chemical by law. The cost would then be trivial. At present it is
impossible to obtain suitable low cost disposable gloves as they are not
made 'because there is no demand'!!!

The only gloves I have come across that are suitable are North Safety
Products (Charleston, SC) 'Silver Shield', but they are very very
expensive and not as such 'disposable', but are good for a day's use.
They are however the best protection available as well as being thin
which improves dexterity.

'Oz     "When I knew little, all was certain. The more I learnt,
        the less sure I was. Is this the uncertainty principle?"

Subject: Re: Roundup patent expiry and consequences??
From: Oz <>
Date: Feb 01 1997
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture

In article <32f29e27.32363523@news>, CropDoc <>
>>Companies could come up with more tools for modern agriculture
>if it was not so costly for products to be registered. The government
>of every modern country requires a fresh registration package.

Which is remarkably silly as far as safety is concerned although
degradation may be different under different conditions/crops. It's
rather less silly as far as efficacity is concerned, although a
continent like the US would comprise pretty well all climates and soil
types one would find in the world. This would not be true of a tiny
little country like the UK.

>initial gouging occurs, then the companies feel compelled to charge
>huge sums for their chemistry to recoup these losses and other
>anticipated losses due to failed registrations.

Mind you they often fail to do their marketing very well. In particular
they often price absurdly high and have very low volume as a result,
which loads more costs onto each can of product. For example chlormequat
dropped in price by a factor of 5 or 6 (farmgate) when it came of patent
and consumption rose by a huge factor (20+??). Accosting one of the
manufacturers at a show I gloated over their loss of the market.

"Oh no." Said the rep "We had a choice, give up or manufacture at
cost+20%. We had just about broken even on the product so we went for
cost+20%. The plant has been flat out day and night all year for the
last two years and we are making a fortune." They would have done very
well if they had priced the product better in the first place.

In fact much of the pricing is placed safely so high that it's not worth
using the product except in extremis until it is out of patent.

>The generic producer
>brings the product to the market at the true cost of production plus a
>reasonable profit margin. Farmers pay more every year for crop inputs
>and sell their crop, in many cases for less than it was worth 20 years

Seriously less in real terms. In 1975 I could sell feed wheat at 70
UKP/T and buy a 100Hp tractor for 6000 UKP. Ie about 85T per tractor. In
1997 I can sell wheat for 90 UKP/T and buy a 100Hp tractor for (I am not
up to date with tractor prices) probably 30,000 UKP or 333T per tractor.
Agricultural wages have gone up from about 20 UKP/week to 200 UKP/week,
a factor of 10. There would be real attractions to going back to 1975
real commodity prices.

>If there is no reasonable expectation for profitability...why
>farm? All the great technology is worthless if we force all our
>farmers out of business and teach the children of farmers that there
>is little future in farming..........CropDoc

Oh, this is going a bit far. At the end of the day people have to eat. A
couple of years of shortages would put prices way up again. The serious
problem is if it's run down in the way that UK agriculture was run down
after the 1st WW until just after the 2nd WW. Farmers went out in
droves, and those that remained did so on mega low cost systems. It
basically took 20 years for production to come fully back, even with
heavy grants and subsidies. So a long period of agricultural depression
results in a structure that cannot, and will not, respond to market
forces in a period of undersupply. This keeps prices high for longer.

'Oz     "Is it better to seem ignorant and learn,
         - or seem wise and stay ignorant?"

From: Oz <>
Subject: Re: GMO soy feeds people more herbicide
Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 17:29:26 +0000

In article <>, Dave Riches <>
>Russell Hogue wrote:
>> In article <>
>> Dave Riches <> wrote:
>> > OK, I'll call you a Luddite. Name one agricultural chemical with a
>> > proven side-effect discovered after long term ingestion by humans (DDT
>> > isn't one of them either).
>> >
>> It would seem that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink
>> and no matter how much evidence is supplied, some people just will not accept
>> that chemicals do cause a lot of damage to mammals birds and fish.  If you
>> believe that strongly that agricultural chemicals do not harm humans, conduct
>> your own scientific experiment.  Ingest large quantities of any organochlorine
>> chemical and document the side affects.  I await patiently your findings.
>Toxicology basic lesson one: the dose makes the poison.  Ingest large
>quantities of table salt over time and you will also suffer chronic ill
>effects.  There are plenty of natural 'poisons' and carcinogens we all
>ingest daily but at low, tolerable doses.  I can quote LD50's of a wide
>range of perceived harmless substances that make many agricultural
>chemicals look positively innocuous.  Should we ban salt?

This sort of discussion surfaces quite regularly. I have noticed that
those in the business who know the toxicology and the risks because they
study them are generally not greatly concerned about pesticides. They
might point to areas where care would be appropriate but this is towards
a chemical that is particularly active against a non-target species.
Those that know nothing, or little, about pesticides and/or toxicology
tend to rant and rave about them mostly I think because this is the
perceived (or received) wisdom of some groups. The fact that DDT was
identified as a problem by scientists, rapidly banned (early 1970's and
generally without farmers or manufacturers complaining much) and then
oozed into public awareness some decade or so later as the flagship of
all that is evil with pesticides illustrates how far behind reality the
'general public' is.

This is, of course with the exception of Torsten who does know his stuff
but delights in being devil's advocate. I am never *quite* sure if he is
doing it as a wind-up or not.

On pesticide safety we do have several problems with labelling. For
example ALL pesticides carry fearsome warnings about contamination of
watercourses. However there is no graduation so that products that are
relatively belign, such as glyphosate, carry the same warning as
cypermethrin (which is rather deadly to daphnia). Indeed I have seen
(many) Roundup labels that say (from memory)

ie armageddon if it goes anywhere near water.

Then in the next paragraph it says:

(Yes, it is indeed licensed for use in waterways, it's rather non-

'Oz     "Is it better to seem ignorant and learn,
         - or seem wise and stay ignorant?"

From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Farming - How Much Acreage Necessary?
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 18:59:57 +0000

In article <6b4n7a$r3j$>, writes

>Interesting. We have a governmental working group in the process
>of evaluating the consequences of a total pesticide phase-out in Denmark.
>Oz, sharing conclusions only, erm .. , as you are posting
>to a sci. newsgroup, well.  Just the main observations and
>assumptions, please, and the train of thought that led to your
>conclusions, that would certainly be more valuable.

Even allowing that disease pressure in the UK is very low because 99.9%
of farmers control diseases with sprays, we see yield decreases in trial
plots without fungicides alone of 30%. In bad disease years in
susceptible varieties the decrease can be close to 70%. This is
published and readily available in the UK.

Yield increases with herbicides is of course dependent on the levels of
weeds. Again, trial plots with high weed populations can show yield
reductions of up to 80%. If you maintain a relatively low weed
population then you can maintain them low with very low doses of
herbicides. Typically I use 1/2 to 1/4 doses where weeds are under
control. Note that one years seeding is a damn sight more than 6 years
weeding for most weed species.

Insecticides can vary. However 20-30%+ is not so uncommon for virus
infections mediated by aphids in barley in typical years and wheat
blossom midge has caused 30%+ yield loss and seriously discoloured and
deformed grain fit only as second class feed over large parts of the Uk
a few years ago.

One can (and would have to) mitigate some of these effects by sowing
late, or sowing spring varieties. However this in itself causes a 30%
loss (late sowing) to 50% (spring cropping) even where pesticides are
used. Reducing seedrates and fertiliser applications also helps, but
also hugely reduces yields.

It's not for nothing we had those high real prices for agricultural
produce before about 1970. The farmers were in fact smart, and knew what
they were doing, and did in fact produce as well as we could today in
their situation. We would have to abandon short, high yielding varieties
with a good harvest index because they are unable to grow above the
weeds and throttle them somewhat. I'm also not sure that combines would
be effective in greenweedy fields at harvest. In fact when you think
about it the whole system would have to revert to the 1930's since
everything is inter-related.

It's also worth noting that cereals and many vegetable crops could only
be grown after three years of grass to reduce the weed burden. The
consequence of this is that not only woulkd cereal yields fall to about
the 5T/Ha mark, but fewer acres would be down to cropping. The net
result would be a huge reduction in grain production, a huge increase in
prices with knock on effects for pig, poultry, milk and beef prices too.

Seasonal yield variations would increase dramatically also, causing
great fluctuations in prices.


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Farming - How Much Acreage Necessary?
Date: Wed, 4 Feb 1998 14:49:55 +0000

In article <6b83i9$kmc$>, Torsten Brinch <iaotb@inet.uni-> writes
>On 1998-02-02 said:
>   >In article <6b4n7a$r3j$>, writes

>The yield reductions you indicated might add up to something
>like a 50 % reduction, on average, if no pesticides were used.
>Why would that lead to  a 5-50x food price increase? You _must_
>be talking farmgate prices, not consumer prices, I know
>you are not mad :-) but you may be fantasizing famine?

If world production dropped by 50% I would imagine there would be
famine. Quite a lot of famine in fact.

The fact is that price is critically inelastic for food. Recent swings
in world grain prices from $260/T to $130/T, such as we have seen in the
last 18 months were caused by production changes of about 2%, IIRC.
Example that this is so can be found in almost every area of the world,
and almost any decade or era.

>   ><..> In fact when you think about it the whole system would
>   >have to revert to the 1930's since everything is inter-related.
>Yes, yes! Agriculture going pesticide-free does imply other changes,
>It is not just a matter of imagining what would happen, with
>current practise otherwise unchanged, if farmers threw away
>the pesticide tool. I suggest that organic farming exists
>not in 1930, but today, as a competing system, which might have
>something to offer.

It's really not anywhere near as simple as this. No weedkillers means
that you have to grow tall varieties that can outcompete most of the
weeds. This results in more straw and less grain, which is why modern
short varieties outyield the old ones by 20-40% (it's where the plant
breeding yield improvements have basically come from). Now these tall
crops go flat far (and believe me I mean *far*) more likely to go flat
so the optimum levels of nitrogen drops to somewhere in the 75kg/Ha
mark. So you have simultaneously reduced the harvest index AND reduced
the total biomass. The net result is a reduction in yield that is far in
excess of what you might have expected.

Having started farming when essentially no fungicides were used and even
basic herbicides were relatively recent I talked to farmers and went to
meetings where some very smart farmers and advisors discussed these

These people knew what they were doing and it is hubris indeed to think
that modern farmers, complete with modern knowledge, would do very much
better than their forebears. Bear in mind that average wheat yields
(better farmers) in the early 70's were under 5T/Ha and often not much
more than 4T/Ha. These people had, and used, semi-modern varietioes,
fertiliser and early pesticides at close to the optimum. Take it back
further, to the tall wheats and all-organic farming and you are down to
3 - 4T/Ha. Today, we could probably do better IF there was enough manure
about, but not by very much, believe me.

>It has exactly been working this interrelatedness,
>with unshattered scientific tracks to heavyweighters like Howard,
>like France, and Liebig.

Er, who are they? [Ignorance exposure- well done!]

>Erm. Back to the 'no-pesticide' consequences, but on
>a smaller scale. In Denmark rules have now been enacted to enable
>public compensation to be given to a farmer who is forced to stop using
>pesticides on the land -- this will happen if the land feeds
>important groundwater ressources deemed too important to spoil
>for society.
>What compensation should be given? One model I've heard is
>quite simple: compensation for a total crop loss one year out of ten,
>i.e. compensate a 10 % reduction. Nice and easy?
>I understand, Oz, that you would not find this a fair deal.

I think it is utterly deplorable for these farmers to be heavily
penalised for the benefit of the many, when at very small cost to the
many they could be properly recompensed.

>How much would a fair deal be?

Simple. Compare their current yields over the last few years with (say)
the average for Dk, then monitor their yields thereafter so as to be
able to estimate their yield loss for the year. Make allowance for
savings in pesticide usage and their higher prices (if any) and pay them
the difference. Note that this can be done by sampling and MUST be done
for all of those in the area so that ALL get the same compensation /Ha.

It is important to do it globally because then it is then in any
individual farmer's interest to maximise his production, thus slightly
reducing the 'subsidy' for all and the cost for society. This then
simultaneously minimises the cost, whilst fully protecting the farmers
who are making an effort and penalising those that aren't. It's very
easy to administer too.

Since the regulations are being imposed on the few 'for the good of the
many', which is in effect victimisation, one should err on the side of
slight generosity in compensation. Acceptance and compliance tends to be
accepted very much more readily in this situation and the extra cost is
very small.


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Farming - How Much Acreage Necessary?
Date: Wed, 4 Feb 1998 18:12:32 +0000

In article <>, Torsten Brinch
<> writes

>Take care not to trivialize the drift problem with glyphosate, Oz. It is
>so easy to go out a few weeks after the spray kill.  And to watch how
>sharply a line one has drawn in the grass, between golden death and green
>life. Even if wind conditions was not ideal, nah,  there's only them
>few yellow flares, a few yards into the green. It's trivial, man. But!
>what else would one expect, even if significant wind drift occurs?

Spray drift is an interesting subject. Perhaps it is fortunate that I
use a sprayer that, although relatively new, uses a very old system of
narrow-spaced cone jets made by Chafers. The sprayer is not a very
common one, but has numerous advantages over more conventional designs
that I will not go into here. One advantage is that I can operate at low
pressure and still get proper coverage despite the very large droplet
size so it is trivial to simply slow down (it has automatic groundspeed
correction) and produce raindrops with no fines for windward boundaries.
We NEVER spray when there is *no* breeze. OK, I accept that others may
be less careful, or may have more sophisticated equipment but there is
no excuse for more than a foot or so of drift kill and certainly not
outside your boundaries or onto ecologically nice areas. After all, you
can always forgo the spray for a foot or meter round these areas. There
is never any excuse for long-distance kill.

>Would the landscape be all yellow and dead for miles, your field in the
>middle, scene of the crime, and neighbours be ready to hunt you with
>shotguns or lawyers? No, neither environmentally damaging winddrift, nor
>glyphosate in non-target plants in sublethal doses work out that way. I
>hope you have something to add.

Perhaps I am silly, but if I can't observe any damage, you can't observe
any damage, the plants look healthy and continue to grow then the dose
is sublethal, affects nothing one can see and so what's effectively
different to if I hadn't sprayed?


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Farming - How Much Acreage Necessary?
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 06:46:01 +0000

In article <>, Torsten Brinch
<> writes

>I can easily observe drift damages from glyphosate each year.
>It does take some learning to observe how different plants reacts
>to sublethal doses of glyphosate.

This being a proper trial, sprayed with 'sublethal' doses of course?

I am reminded of the tree scorch that we appeared to have when we burned
fields. A week to a month after burning one side of some trees started
going brown in some years. It was independent of burn direction so we
assumed it was radiated heat. Didn't stop the tree growing vigorously
the following year.

Burning was banned. The effect continued. We were puzzled. The light
dawned. It was the south side of the trees. It only occurred on planted
(ie not very suitable) trees on sandy or gravelly soils in dry summers.
They were droughted and the south side was worse effected.

I have to say that we thought it was our burning and looked no further,
but it wasn't. This was obvious. One should beware assuming yellow bits
on plants are due to glyposate. They probably aren't.

All I CAN say is that *I* have never seen any damage outside the target
area but I have seen lots of yellowing on wild plants where roundup has
not been sprayed for years (if ever, with anything). Quite often one can
find diseases that are very similar to yellow rust or septoria clearly
affecting one plant of grass (as an example) but not it's neighbours.

>Effects may be very obvious without
>meeting your eyes brutally, or they can be very subtle if dose is
>low. Some effects cannot be seen until another growth stage
>or until another growth season. It would be naive to assume that there
>are not effects present also that cannot be detected by even the keen eye.

Unless you have evidence that this is in fact glyposate, I would remind
you that there are 1001 other things that can cause these symptoms. Even
(particularly) wild plants have pests and diseases, usually lots of
them, both above and below ground.


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: misc.survivalism,misc.rural,sci.agriculture,
Subject: Re: Pesticide Problems
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 14:03:48 +0000

In article <>, j <> writes

>   Keep laughing. One iota of thought on the matter
>   will reveal that I am correct. An "organic" farm
>   in the midst of "in-organic" farms is effectively
>   blessed with a "barrier treatment" which
>   intercepts a great many migrating insects before
>   they can arrive to innudate the "organic" crops.

It's well documented in trials plots too. Control plots scattered
amongst treated plots show very much lower disease levels than untreated
plots elsewhere on the site. There is also the problem of pests and
disease actually finding susceptibe crops. This is very well documented.
For example when new crops have come into the UK they have been pest and
disease free, if the level grows, suddenly pests and diseases become a
problem. If the crop area then crashes, those few left growing the crop
find that they no longer need to control the pests and disease they did.

In fact it can be even more obvious than that. As an example the winter
wheat Slepjner originally had excellent yellow rust resistance. It was
extensively grown and had a (serious) breakdown to a strain of yellow
rust and all but dissapeared except for a few people who needed it's
excellent standing power. Within a few years they no longer needed to
spray for yellow rust on the Slepjner, even though they did for adjacent
crops of a common variety because the strains were different.

It's why I can grow vegetable in my garden without pesticides (except a
hoe) 4 years out of 5. It's a small plot and by the time the insects
find it the predator level is so high they are rapidly controlled and
the disease levels are so low locally that they rarely get diseased.
However, I know from experience that if I grew 70 acres, I would be
inundated with pests and diseases very quickly and if I let the
predators contol pests, I would have no marketable crop. Why the micro-
scale growers cannot see this, or even listen to what is being said I do
not know. I sure would LOVE to see them try and grow a decent acreage on
their 'weed and disease-free system'. Boy oh boy would they be in for a
BIG surprise. Followed by bankruptcy. Still, I guess the blind have
trouble seeing.


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Pesticide Problems
Date: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 07:59:13 +0000

In article <>, writes

>Mind you, it does make sense to me, despite the <G>s, j, the effect
>could be real and it might even be significant in some situations,
>conversely the non-organic farm could be blessed by a significant influx of
>beneficials (insects, birds, whatever) that are better nurtured on
>non-treated land. Maybe some such effects have been measured, in some
>integrated systems, with both effects utilized, to achieve maximized
>resource usage etc, could possibly mean a reduction of insecticide use too.

A worthwile point to consider for those who don't consider these things.

A conventional farm amidst a sea of organic ones. What is the likely

1) Insects.
Insect pest populations in seasonal regions (here I mean a winter spell
that reduces numbers by many orders of magnitude due cold and lack of

In spring both pest and predator go looking for food. For the predator
it's very hard to find the very small and scattered pests and many die.
The pests, OTOH, find huge acres of susceptible crops to munch on
without difficulty. Predator numbers fall, pest numbers increase
exponentially. For non-flying pests (at this time of year) like aphids,
you will find foci of heavily infected plants (a couple of meters
across) in otherwise clean fields without predators. Now it's much
easier for the depleted predators to find them and predator numbers
start their exponential increase. Note the differences you would get
with flying pests (like Colorado beetle) on this initial phase.

The conventional farmer would control the foci when they were very small
indeed (a few aphids) typically using a low dose of insecticide during
winter or very early spring.

By mid summer the pests will typically have moved to flying stages and
levels will be VERY high, however the predator population is fast
catching up. Exactly what the effect on the conventional farmer will be
probably varies from season to season, and pest to pest. Probably he
will have to spray slightly more often. Currently the pest populations
are low, mainly confined to hedges and ditches, and the level of the
explosion is low and can safely be left until the predators get it under
control. I think that the huge mobile pest population at this stage will
exceed spray thresholds almost immediately in a 'nearly all organic'

By late summer (harvest) the predators typically have the prey well
under control anyway under either system.

It is important to note that for many pest species, particularly aphids
(and I believe mites) the damage due to pest feeding is often small. The
damage is caused by viruses that they carry which can and do result in
yields losses of 70%+. This is particularly true of cereals and
brassicae (particularly sugar beet). The organic farmer will have to
just take these yields losses on the chin.

2) Diseases.
Seasonal-type areas.

Here the situation is more straightforward. Cereal acreage will be
seriously reduced in large areas of europe where they were never
historically grown. Western UK, western parts of france and probably
parts of germany and scandinavia. Cereals were not grown extensively in
these areas almost entirely because of cool/wet weather diseases.
Septoria/fusarium/eyespot/yellowrust in wheat and rhynchosporium/fusariu
m/eyespot/netblotch in barley causes devastating yield losses. Canola
should be OK. Of other crops I can be less definitive because I don't
really grow them but historically brassicae in the north and west (along
with oats) and cereals in the south and east were usual.

Interestingly my father in law was one of the first people to grow
significant amounts of cereals in W. England after the war, about 70% of
his farm. He was able to do this because the farm microclimate was very
dry for the area and the thin soils warmed up quickly making it more
like a farm several hundred miles to the east. Even so, devastating
disease attacks in some years decimated yields (no fungicides then).

Oh, and as for disease spread in a nearly all organic situation?
Explosive and uncontrolled would be the best description. It would be
mitigated by a rush to varieties and techniques that minimise disease
spread. You will note that they all cause big yield reductions, but hey
nothing like annual outbreaks of serious disease (believe me).

The techniques are:

1) Sow thinly. (Bit tricky for weeds, this). Many diseases spread by
plant to plant contact (eg septoria, rhynchosporium), spreading plants
out reduces this. Thin crops also have drier crop microclimates which
further reduces the infectivity of spore germination (eg rusts).

2) Sow late. (Helps weed control, this). Moves emergence away from the
very high infection levels in late autumn and early winter, Produces a
thinner crop. Grow 50% spring crops of another species (typically winter
wheat and spring barley were grown in the UK) to reduce speed of spread.

3) Use poor varieties. Preferably showing the best resistance to races
of disease likely to attack the 'best' variety (which everybody else is
growing), thus posponing attack for as long as possible. Use different
varieties with different resistance patterns to disease strains.

4) Reduce your acreage of susceptible crops. Grow more Canola. Hope and
pray that the vegetarian movement collapses so you can produce more beef
and sheep to use the grass breaks you would like to grow. Hope cereal
prices rocket and thus increase the cost of pigs and poultry so people
eat more grass-fed red meat.

I've probably written too much already........

(NB net result for this conventional grower? More disease of course.)


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Organic Farming Reference Books
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 07:02:42 +0100

In article <>, writes

>In organic you take preventive pest control
>measure, in chemical you start spraying when the pest level becomes

Ugh! Controlling pests when they have become 'evident' in conventional
farming is a dangerous tactic that almost always results in high levels
of pesticide that are not that effective. Using reduced rates (down to
1/10 in mixtures) against pests and diseases at their onset is more
effective (see exponential growth).

This has been beautifully illustrated in the UK this year where low
doses against yellow rust have controlled the spread very effectively
where later spraying at full rates has been slow, not very effective and
not prevented severe yield loss.

All farmers, organic and conventional, work within nature and need to
understand it as best they are able. The concepts are the same, only the
techniques differ.


From: (Tracy Aquilla)
Newsgroups: misc.rural,rec.gardens.edible,rec.gardens,sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Septic Gardening
Date: Tue, 8 Sep 98 10:44:47 GMT

In Article <>, Karen Hohne <> wrote:
>Tracy Aquilla wrote:
>> Before you get carried away patting each other on the back, how about naming
>> a few of the non-biodegradeable pesticides you have in mind?
>> Tracy
>Why do you hang on so hard to the biodegradable idea?

Quite simply because that is where you made your mistake, even though you
still refuse to admit it. Oz noted that at least since the early 1970s, all
pesticides must be biodegradeable, and you replied "Good Lord, how little
you know!", suggesting that his assertion was incorrect. Let's set the
record straight.

>you think these things turn into water?

Since most pesticides are organic compounds, simple chemistry dictates that
the degradation products must be more than just water. So no (some CO2 also).

>I've already cited
>two chemicals out of literally thousands of related
>agrochems that photolyse--are transformed by sunlight into
>something else, in both cases, chemicals far more dangerous
>than what we started out with.  I was frankly surprised that
>this was so common it actually had a name.

Study the chemistry of pesticides, and you will discover that such
transformations are relatively common. In particular, note that many of the
second and third-generation products are designed such that when metabolized
by insects, the breakdown products are usually more toxic than the technical
material, whereas in higher animals, the breakdown products are usually less
toxic. Of course, this does not change the fact that all modern pesticides
are required to be biodegradeable.

>I thought it was
>peculiar to chlordane and dieldrin.  And even if they quit
>using this stuff *fifty* years ago, it's still in the animal
>food chain--somebody's eating somebody who ate it.  These
>sorts of pesticides are stored in fat, something we humans
>and all other animals need to live.  You think because
>they've outlawed a couple chemicals, the danger is gone?

Certainly no danger of misapplication or inadvertent poisoning, once they
are no longer available.

>Likewise, just because it's legal doesn't mean it's safe.

To be legal, the use of a product must be registered, and in order to be
registered, the EPA must be satisfied that the product is reasonably safe
for its intended use, based on reams of data. So yes, if it is legal, it is
reasonably safe for its intended use.

>Alcohol and cigarettes are legal too.

Note however that they are not registered pesticides. In fact, most uses of
nicotine pesticides have been de-registered in the US, because it is so
toxic. The regulatory standards for pesticides are different from the
standards for food and drugs. The FDA approves drugs that are known to be
highly toxic, and foods are not tested for toxicity at all. Pesticides,
however, have stringent standards.

>I think you and this
>Oz fellow are simply determined that pesticides must be safe
>"if used as directed"

Well yes, because they must be demonstrated to be reasonably safe for the
intended use before they can be registered.

>because to think otherwise would imply changing your behavior.

Or perhaps it is because it is simply the truth?

>I can remember being very certain
>that smoking hazards were a lot of hooey when I smoked four
>packs a day. I pretty much *had* to think that way, didn't

Well I don't smoke, and I don't use pesticides, so I guess your theory is
all washed up.

From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: Chlordane the Unmarketable (was: Septic Gardening)
Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 21:24:46 +0100

In article <6t6ju4$bns$>, Harold Lindaberry
<> writes

> I probably
>got my share and then some because I never was much of a gloves type
>person ( sometimes made an exception with OP's and protective clothing
>is a recent invention.  If you spilled concentrate on yourself wash it
>off and wear clean clothing each day.

Interestingly there was a published, and hastily covered up, report
comparing the efficacity of various glove materials in protecting people
from agrochemical exposure. As a control they had bare hands, bare hands
washed in soap after 1 minute, bare hands washed in water within one
minute. [IIRC the details]

Using slightly contaminated (on the inside) gloves had by far the
highest exposure. hands unwashed came next. Wearing clean gloves each
time was much better but the thickness was such that some penetrated
within the 10 minute test period. Hands washed in soap came next but by
FAR the lowest absorbtion came from hands exposed and then washed in
clean water within 1 minute. This explains your long life.  :-)


From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture,sci.environment,talk.environment
Subject: Re: Can pesticides EVER be proven safe?
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 06:48:08 +0000

In article <>, Andrea Mohn
<> writes

>I just wanted to say, something really needs to be done about the dangers
>of pesticides.  My dog just died because of them.

Which you have reported, I trust?
You are of course certain?
Which product was responsible and how did your dog eat enough?

When I hear this I am always minded of a local homeowner who has a goat
die two days after we sprayed our adjacent field. Of course it was our
pesticides and samples were taken and lawyers (on his part) briefed.
They arrived out of the blue with the (very embarrased) local vet and
requested to see our spray records (we had no idea that any goat had
died or anything was amiss). Instead of telling them to piss off we got
out the records and lo and behold we had sprayed two days previously.
Fortunately it was with manganese sulphate and after some explanation
they left clearly unconvinced and clearly without any sort of case.
However I always wonder what would have happened if we had happened to
have been spraying with a pesticide.


Index Home About Blog