Cropping

Charles Sturt University professor writes paper on glyphosate fear campaigns

By Rodney Woods

Conservation agriculture revolutionised how crops are grown in Australia, mitigating soil erosion and securing production, but a Charles Sturt University academic argues those gains are threatened by a campaign of misinformation about the chemical glyphosate.

Charles Sturt Professor of Agriculture Jim Pratley, from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, has published an article, Glyphosate and the campaign of fear, in the Farm Policy Journal.

Prof Pratley said glyphosate was a lynchpin chemical but its use was under threat on a number of fronts.

“A destructive social agenda based on campaigns of fear, mistrust and misinformation means that community attitudes towards glyphosate have become almost hysterically negative in recent years,” Prof Pratley said.

“Facts about the safety of glyphosate have to date proved little protection against fears voiced so loudly and so frequently.”

The article also examines the evolution of herbicide resistance and the challenges that presents for efficacy of the chemical going forward.

“From an agronomic perspective the sustainable performance of herbicides and particularly glyphosate is possible, provided the principles of herbicide resistance minimisation are practised and the exploitative attitudes of seed and chemical companies are kept in check,” Prof Pratley said.

He said conservation agriculture was practised by the vast majority of Australian farmers.

“If we are to maintain our no-till farming systems the alternative chemicals to glyphosate are much less safe.

“We need to ensure there's diversity in farming practices, herbicide use and variety of crops to minimise herbicide resistance.

“Political interference, a ban on the use of glyphosate or restrictions on imports of products, where it has been used, would have big implications, not just in Australia but for global food security as we move towards a population of nine billion.”

The full article is available for purchase from: http://www.farminstitute.org.au/publications-1/farm-policy-journals/2020-winter-shifting-sands-ag-policy-in-a-post-truth-era/fpj1702f-pratley

Professor Pratley has widely published research in conservation farming, weed management, herbicide resistance and allelopathy.