[permaculture] Polluted manure ruins gardens (hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflj at intrex.net
Sun Jun 29 10:21:13 EDT 2008

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] Polluted manure ruins gardens  (hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid)
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2008 07:54:43 -0400
From: jcummins <jcummins at UWO.CA>

Home-grown veg ruined by toxic fertiliser

Gardeners across Britain are reaping a bitter harvest of rotten
withered salads and deformed tomatoes after an industrial herbicide
their soil. Caroline Davies reports on how the food chain became
and talks to the angry allotment owners whose plots have been destroyed

Caroline Davies The Observer, Sunday June 29,  2008

Gardeners have been warned not to eat home-grown vegetables
contaminated by
a powerful new herbicide that is destroying gardens and allotments
across the

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been inundated with calls from
concerned gardeners who have seen potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and
vegetables wither or become grossly deformed. The society admitted
that it had  no
idea of the extent of the problem, but said it appeared 'significant'.
affected gardens and allotments have been contaminated by manure
from farms where the hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid has been
sprayed on

Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures aminopyralid, has posted advice to
allotment holders and gardeners on its website. Colin Bowers, Dow's UK
marketing manager, told The Observer that links to their products had
proved in some of the cases, but it was not clear whether aminopyralid
responsible for all of them and tests were continuing. 'It is
undoubtedly a
problem,' he said, 'and I have got full sympathy for everyone who is
involved  with

He said the company was unable to advise gardeners that it was 'safe' to
consume vegetables that had come into contact with the manure because of
pesticide regulations. 'All we can say is that the trace levels of
aminopyralid  that
are likely to be in these crops are of such low levels that they are
unlikely to cause a problem to human health.'

The Dow website says: 'As a general rule, we suggest damaged produce
(however this is caused) should not be consumed.' Those who have
already used
contaminated manure are advised not to replant on the affected soil
for at least  a

Aminopyralid, which is found in several Dow products, the most popular
Forefront, a herbicide, is not licensed to be used on food crops and
a label warning farmers using it not to sell manure that might contain
residue to gardeners. The Pesticides Safety Directorate, which has
issued a
regulatory update on the weedkiller, is taking samples from affected
plants for

Problems with the herbicide emerged late last year, when some commercial
potato growers reported damaged crops. In response, Dow launched a
within the agriculture industry to ensure that farmers were aware of
how the
products should be used. Nevertheless, the herbicide has now entered
the food
chain. Those affected are demanding an investigation and a ban on the
They say they have been given no definitive answer as to whether other
on their gardens and allotments is safe to eat.

It appears that the contamination came from grass treated 12 months ago.
Experts say the grass was probably made into silage, then fed to
cattle during
the winter months. The herbicide remained present in the silage,
passed through
  the animal and into manure that was later sold. Horses fed on hay
that had
been  treated could also be a channel.

Bryn Pugh, legal consultant at the National Society of Allotments and
Leisure Gardeners, said he was preparing claims for some members to
seek  financial
compensation from the manure suppliers. But it was extremely difficult
trace the exact origins of each contaminated batch. 'It seems to be
 From what I know, it is endemic throughout England and Wales. We
will be
pressing the government to ban this product,' he said.

Aminopyralid is popular with farmers, who spray it on grassland
because it
controls weeds such as docks, thistles and nettles without affecting
the grass
around them. It binds itself to the woody tissue in the grass and only
  down when exposed to bacteria in the soil.

Shirley Murray, 53, a retired management consultant with an allotment
Bushy Park in Hampton, south-west London, said several of her allotment
neighbours had used the same manure bought from a stables and all were
affected.  'I
am absolutely incensed at what has happened and find it scandalous
that a
weedkiller sprayed more than one year ago, that has passed through an
gut, was kicked around on a stable floor, stored in a muck heap in a
then  on an allotment site and was finally dug into or mulched on to
beds last
winter  is still killing "sensitive" crops and will continue to do so
for the
next  year,' she said.

'It's very toxic, it shouldn't get into the food chain. You try to be as
organic as you can and we have poisoned ourfood. I've been everywhere,
all the right people, but nobody will speak on the record to guarantee
what is
safe to eat. We all think it is a scandal. Not to mention what it has
cost in
  time and money.'

Pesticide expert Professor Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist at Ulster
University, said it was 'a very powerful herbicide' but in his opinion
'unlikely to pose any human health risks'. However, advice about its
use should  be
strengthened, he said. 'I think the thing that is going to drive this
is the
commercial damage that could be done to market gardeners,' he said.

Guy Barter, the RHS head of horticultural advisory services, said they
receiving more than 20 calls a week. 'Our advice is not to eat the
because no one seems to have any idea whether it is safe to eat them
and we
can't give any assurances,' he said. 'It is happening all over the
country. A
lot of cases we are seeing is where people have got manure from
stables and
the  stable have bought their hay from a merchant, and the merchant
might have
bought  hay from many farmers, possibly from different parts of the
So they  have no idea where the hay came from. So finding someone to
blame is
quite  difficult.' Weedkiller in the soil should dissipate by next
year, but in
stacks  of contaminated manure it might take two or more years to
decay, he

Dow is planning a major publicity campaign to reiterate warnings to
over usage, and to encourage allotment holders to check the provenance of
manure  that they put down in an effort to prevent the problem
escalating. On
compensation, it was less forthcoming. 'There is no easy answer to
that,' said
Bowers. 'The first port of call is always where the manure comes from.
that  point on, I can't really comment.

'The chain is horrendously complicated. In the cases we have managed to
trace back, we might find that the farmer who supplied the manure
didn't spray
anything himself, but he might have bought in a couple of bales of
silage from
one of his neighbours, and that farm might have sprayed.'

Robin and Christina Jones spread a large amount of manure over their
garden and vegetable patch at their home in Banstead, Surrey. When the
potatoes  failed, Robin took a sample to the RHS, which identified
aminopyralid. His
neighbour, who bought from the same source, suffered the same
problems. 'We
have  lost 80 per cent of our vegetable patch,' said Jones, 65, a
retired sound
  engineer. Raspberries, French beans, onions, leeks, even a newly
robina  tree were all affected. 'We are distraught. But what worries
me is that
the  courgettes look very healthy. Had we not had the problem with the
potatoes, we  might never have realised. Now we are advised not to eat

'This is a very serious issue, and people must be made aware of the
not to eat vegetables grown in contaminated manure.'

Sue Ainsworth, 58, an education consultant, said around 20 allotments
at  her
site in Hale, Cheshire, had been affected. 'We first noticed with the
potatoes. As they came through, they were deformed, all curled over
and rotten
underneath. But the worry is that the courgettes also planted on the
manure are
fine - but are they safe to eat? This must have affected thousands of
people. I
  am really worried about this product and really think it should be

She said the farmer who supplied the manure said he had used nothing
unusual. 'But he may have bought in the straw and genuinely knew
nothing about  the
herbicide used.'

Susan Garrett, 57, an IT consultant, said 20 plots were affected at her
allotment in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. 'And that is just the plants
we can see
are damaged. We are angry it has been allowed to happen - not with the
  company, but because there doesn't seem to be any protection for us or
anything  to stop it happening again.'

How to deal with the problem
Do you have contaminated manure?
Tell-tale symptoms of crop damage include distorted foliage, with
cupping of leaves and fern-like growth. There are no remedies once
damage has occurred. Susceptible crops include potatoes, tomatoes,
beans, peas, carrots and lettuce.

How should you deal with the affected area?
Experts say rotavation is the best practice, or forking over several
times as soon as possible. This incorporates the plant tissue into the
soil, where it will decompose and the chemicals will eventually be
degraded by soil microbes. Repeat the rotavation in late summer/early

Should you replant this season?
No. The plant residues need to be given time to break down. The advice
is not to replant for a year.

Why has the chemical lasted so long?
Aminopyralid, like other herbicides, works by binding strongly to
plant tissues. Once the plant's tissues decay, the chemical breaks
down in the soil. If manure is stacked it takes far longer.

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