Theo Stehle, Knysna:
I refer to the article "Enviro-guardians with a global goal" (Knysna Plett Herald, 29 August) where the spraying of the herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate by a forestry company is discussed and put in a negative light. Most of us who are familiar with herbicides in forestry, agriculture or for household use, know the commercial product "Roundup". It has been used in the control of weeds and alien vegetation in the agriculture, forestry and nature conservation sectors for decades.
As a retired professional forester with over 40 years of practical experience, also in the judicious use of herbicides, I want to caution against the many unfounded and pseudo-scientific judgements regarding the detrimental effects of glyphosate.
Environmental activists without the necessary background often embark on struggles against management practices modern agriculture and forestry would not be able to function without. Without chemicals like glyphosate we wouldn't have food on our table. The reality is that infestations by alien weeds and invader plants from other parts of the world are getting worse every day, and have to be controlled artificially. The only feasible way is by the application of herbicides.
There is a massive amount of information on glyphosate out there, and a multitude of studies have been conducted for over forty years. As many of the studies are biased or plainly unscientific, the wheat has to be separated from the chaff.
Scientific studies commissioned by the large herbicide companies themselves are to be regarded with suspicion.
However, independent research has been carried out by universities and other uncompromising institutions, and these have in many cases peer-reviewed biased and unscientific studies and rejected their findings. Some of the claims that glyphosate carries health risks for humans, for example, have convincingly been refuted by reputable, authoritative, scientific studies (refer to Facts and fallacies in the debate on glyphosate toxicity by R. Mesnage and M. Antoniou, accessible on the Internet). Indications from reliable scientific literature, available on the Internet, are that if the herbicide is applied according to prescriptions, it is health-wise and environmentally relatively safe. No chemicals, including those administered to humans by the medical profession, are without side effects altogether. The question is: What is worse, having to contend with weeds and invasive plants which make it impossible to grow food or trees, and conserve water sources and biodiversity, or having to live with the relatively low side effects of glyphosate?
Until such time as there is scientific proof without any doubt that glyphosate is harmful to the environment or human health, the benefits of glyphosate should be used to the full, also to the benefit of the natural environment.