Wales residents sickened and properties compromised

Monsanto pesticides are responsible for the deterioration of our nature reserve, and UK regulators hide evidence.

In March 2006, my husband and I attended an ornithological meeting in mid Wales. The numbers of skylarks, yellowhammers, and tree sparrows had decreased dramatically in the regions mainly because of the reduction in cereal crops (e.g., wheat, barley, rye, and oats) that would have provided them with seed through the winter. It had become more profitable for farmers to keep sheep and cattle for grazing.

Consequently, people were being asked to set aside some land for growing crops specifically for bird feeding. So we did just that, fencing off about an acre of land from the 3.45 acres we purchased next to our house about 30 years ago. For the birds, we began growing organic sunflowers and barley. This is how our heaven on earth nature reserve began. At the time, little did we suspect the apocalypse that was on the way.

The Joyful Beginnings

Summer 2006 was memorable for its warm weather. By July, the sunflowers had burst forth into a dense sea of yellow. From the field came a drowsy murmuring of bumblebees and solitary bees as they gorged themselves and staggered home loaded with pollen and nectar.

The chirruping sounds of grasshoppers rubbing their legs together and the sight of them springing around in the long grass reminded me of my childhood. In July, we asked a professional naturalist to do a moth count. He placed three very bright light sources in round plastic containers filled with cardboard egg trays. Moths are attracted to the lights from a wide radius and a proportion fell into the containers.

The next morning at about 6 a.m. when he emptied the traps he recorded (while we photographed) 143 species of moth. Some species trapped were in numbers up to 500. We were astounded by the variety of species and asked if it was to do with the sunflowers. No, he replied, it was because we weren’t using pesticides and we had allowed the small wildflowers to flourish.

We had a wonderful summer photographing and documenting hundreds of invertebrates that were appearing in our new reserve. Amongst others were six species of bumblebee, eight species of shield bug, three species of bush cricket, 20 species of butterfly, many ladybirds and their larvae and pupae, aphids, spiders, moths, beetles, wasps, solitary bees, dragonflies, damselflies, several common lizards, grass snakes, and bats.

We removed areas of turf around the edges and planted clumps of wild flowers. We cultivated a patch on the edge for cornfield annuals such as poppies, cornflowers, corn cockle, and corn marigold.

We grew larval food plants for assorted moth and butterfly caterpillars, not initially realizing that their leaves would be stripped. Great Willow Herb for the elephant hawk-moth, Buckthorn for Brimstone, Great Mullein and figwort for the Mullein Moth, garlic mustard for the Orange-tip and Bird’s-foot-Trefoil for the Common Blue. Nettles were already there for the Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell and Holly and Ivy for the Holly Blue.

In March 2007 my husband dug a small pond and by May 2008 it was occupied by many water invertebrates, including nymphs, and palmate newts but no frogs. It provided drinking and bathing water for birds, and swallows skimmed over it catching insects and drinking in the height of summer. Dragonflies and damselflies began to lay their eggs in it. A male broad-bodied chaser defended his territory and waited for females to come, mate and lay eggs.

In May 2009 an emperor dragonfly nymph hatched on the yellow flags around the pond. We planted a double bare-rooted hedge of native species on the west side of the reserve in 2008 and a strip of a cultivated form of chicory. By 2008 the sunflowers had dwindled because of lack of nutrition and weeds had started to get the upper hand. We didn’t want to use fertilizer and pesticides so we decided to ask a local farmer to plough to try to cultivate a meadow.

Speckled Bush Crickets And The Year Of The Bumblebee

In January 2009 I had surgery and radiotherapy for cancer. My enforced stay at home provided an opportunity for us to write two photo-journals about the reserve. Having spent 2009 observing speckled bush crickets, in January 2010 I decided to concentrate on bumblebees. The life cycle of a bumblebee differs greatly from that of a honeybee. Only the mated queen survives the winter.

The rest of the colony dies. The new queen goes into hibernation any time after July with honey stores. She emerges some time in February/March the following year, depending on the species, and searches for a nesting site. She will lay her eggs and the first to hatch are workers. They will then take food back to the nest and some cells will produce males and others new queens. The males will hatch first, followed by the queens, usually in July/August.

Our reserve had six species of bumblebees to begin with: Bombus pratorum (early), Bombus terrestris (buff tail), Bombus lucorum (white tail) Bombus hortorum (garden bumblebee), Bombus lapidarius (red tail), and Bombus pascuorum (common carder bee). The B. pascuorum and B. hortorum both have long tongues, meaning they are able to forage from long flowers.

These lovely creatures photographed between 2006 and 2010 have been poisoned

Nocturnal Visits Were Good Therapy

When I had sleepless nights I went out and observed life on the reserve. I watched the orb web spider catching prey and repairing her web; I took my bat detector along the hedgerows. The detector was set at 40 kHz, so as well as detecting speckled bush crickets I could pick up the staccato discharge of pipistrelle bats performing their erratic aerobatics as they hunted insects. Often I would hear tawny owls calling to each other — a haunting sound.

I would follow the voice as it moved from one group of trees to another, but the bird was rarely visible, however hard I looked. One night in November 2010 the sky was magnificently clear; only a single vaporous cloud drifted above the sea. Jupiter shone prominently in the southwest. I turned toward the east to look at my favorite star cluster, the Pleiades (the seven divine sisters), when suddenly out of the darkness a bright, slow moving stream of light traced a wide arc across the sky and plunged toward the earth; it was one of the Taurid meteor showers.

Monsanto Pesticides: The Beginning Of The End

In 2013 the biodiversity on our reserve started to decline. We found that a Japanese knotweed eradication program with Monsanto pesticides (Roundup) was being undertaken in adjacent woodlands. Roundup is sprayed on the plants or injected into the stems. In this manner fine droplets can enter the air and can be carried a long way if there is a wind. Japanese knotweed grows by water. Monsanto’s hazard warning notice says Roundup should not be allowed to enter water because it is toxic to aquatic invertebrates.

We asked the Chairman of the UK Environment Agency if they could measure glyphosate levels in water but he declined. So we sent samples of river water and tap water to a laboratory in Leipzig. The level of glyphosate in one Welsh river thanks to agricultural runoff on Japanese knotweed was 190 parts per trillion (ppt); the tap water was 30 ppt. These concentrations increase breast cancer cell proliferation according to one 2013 study:

The present study used pure glyphosate substance at log intervals from 10-12 to 10-6 M. These concentrations are in a crucial range which correlated to the potential biological levels at part per trillion (ppt) to part per billion (ppb) which have been reported in epidemiological studies.

In the UK, the incidence of breast cancer has almost doubled between 1975 and 2010. Analysis in local tap water in August 2014 revealed a tenfold increase of glyphosate since August 2013; from 30 ppt to 300 ppt.

In July 2015 the holes in our solitary bee hotel were full; in July 2016 they were unoccupied. In November 2016 we found a piece in the Swansea Leader that explained why. At the beginning of 2016 the Council asked Complete Weed Control to eradicate weeds: according to Swansea City and County Council, weeds were making the roadsides of The City of Swansea untidy for tourists and residents. In the summer the contractors sprayed 1500 km (932 miles) of roadsides; the same roads were sprayed in the autumn. We applied for information under the Environmental Freedom of Information requests and we found that they had sprayed 518 kg (1141.99 lbs) Dakar Pro (a professional preparation of Roundup), but 26 wards were still not completed. So the Council suggested that they carry on if the weeds were still growing. Monsanto issued instructions in 2010 for uses of glyphosate in Europe. In 2012 new rules came into force for streets and pavements:

From 2012 new rules from the regulator, Chemical Regulations Directorate (CRD) prohibits blanket spraying of any herbicide on non-porous hard surfaces. Targeted treatment of weeds must be undertaken on roads, pavements, concrete, and paved areas and drains must not be over sprayed. Hard surfaces offer no chemical binding and thus a high risk of runoff of pesticides to water courses, pollution of surface water and increased cost of treatment to remove pesticides from drinking water.

I wrote to Martin Temple Chairman of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), explaining that the biodiversity in our nature had been wiped out by Monsanto pesticides like Roundup and many of us had developed cataracts and macular degeneration during 2016. In addition, the method of spraying had been illegal. It should only be sprayed on vegetation and not on hard surfaces because it runs off into water. The DIRECTIVE 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament on Sustainable Use of Pesticides advises that “in places such as public parks and gardens, sports and recreation grounds, school grounds and children’s play grounds, and in the close vicinity of healthcare facilities the risks from exposure to pesticides is high.”

The UK Government did not accept that advice. The area in the vicinity of Monsanto pesticides like Roundup spraying is a hot spot for aggressive cancers (breast, prostate, lung, pancreas, ovary, colon, kidney, bladder, liver, uterus (including sarcoma), esophagus, myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, carcinoid, malignant melanoma, brain tumor, mostly glioblastoma, and neurological disorders [multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Dementia and MND]).

“It is for the Council to decide how it controls weeds in its area, not HSE,” replied Dan Manghai for HSE: Glyphosate Reassessment.

The German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) broadly concluded that glyphosate was not harmful to the environment. I wrote to the European Food Safety Authority to challenge that statement and in January 2016 I sent the Executive Director, Dr. Bernhard Url, a copy of our photo-journal. I had no acknowledgement. On June 29 2016, the unelected European Commission decided to extend the license for glyphosate by 18 months, after member states failed to achieve a qualified majority in favor or against the executive’s proposal.

In mid-November 2016, I also sent Michael Flüh, Head of Unit Pesticides and Biocides, European Commission and Geert Dancet, Executive Director of the European Chemicals Agency copies of both photo-journals. I asked Michael Flüh to show it to President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Geert Dancet acknowledged it but EFSA and the European Commission failed to do so.

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Monsanto pesticides

European Chemicals Agency Video On Chemical Risks

Jack de Bruijn, in charge of risk assessment, explains that ECHA‘s role is in the labeling and classification of chemicals. “We only look at the hazardous properties of a chemical,” he said, “not at the risks that occur when you use a chemical.” The ECHA video was put out on the day that the petition to stop glyphosate was officially launched in Brussels by NGOs including Greenpeace, HEAL, and Pesticide Action Network.

Editor’s Notes

According to the author, Rosemary Mason, the area in which she lives is “still being poisoned by Roundup.” And, she adds:

Wales has been used by England to manufacture, store, and test Monsanto’s most toxic chemicals. There are very few fish left in the Welsh Rivers because of Roundup and the neonicotinoid insecticides that run off from farmers’ fields.

In Mason’s opinion, her health and the health of her neighbor’s continues to deteriorate because of glyphosate. She does not know if her original cancer was caused by Monsanto pesticides like Roundup. However, she has recently written a 27-page paper that explores that possibility, entitled: Our Daily Poison: Chemical Contamination of Our Food, Farmland, Rivers and Seas. The paper is based on Our Daily Poison, a book written by an award-winning French journalist, author, and film-maker Marie-Monique Robin who was Patron of the International Monsanto Tribunal. In her research for the document, Mason found that the number of plaintiffs involved in U.S. Lawsuits against Monsanto for Roundup causing cancer has risen to more that 700. In the process, judges have been able to force Monsanto to reveal many email exchanges, which showed they falsified data.

Meanwhile, Mason says her own municipal council has not gotten back to her in regards to what Mason believes is deadly and illegal spraying of weeds. She asked for and received documents under the Environmental Freedom of Information Requests that showed the Swansea City Council has continued to spray with Roundup and has more sprayings scheduled in the future.

The five judges of the Monsanto Tribunal agreed that:
  • Monsanto has violated human rights to food, health, a healthy environment, and the freedom indispensable for independent scientific research.
  • “Ecocide” should be recognized as a crime in international law.    
  • Human rights and environmental laws are undermined by corporate-friendly trade and investment regulation.

Rosemary Mason worked for the National Health Service for 35 years as Consultant Anaesthetist to West Glamorgan Health Authority. She lives in South Wales with her Danish husband. In between the rise and fall of her Nature Reserve she has spent seven years challenging the Regulatory Authorities and Governments about Pesticides.

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