TEXAS Stop the Super Weed/Monsanto Attack Last Day to Comment...What’s Happening Right Now in Texas is Utterly Destroying Monsanto’s “Sustainable” Farming Claims
Roundup in Texas: Spray Drift Showdown in the GM Cotton Fields
Eric Herm and his father farm over 6000 organic acres in Texas. He is the fourth generation of his family to run his farm. And now he is conflict with the neighbours he has known all his life because they are all GM farmers and their spraying is killing his crops. This is his story:
"I can't tackle Monsanto in court. But I will not hesitate to sue my neighbours if roundup spraying continues to damage our farming."
As an organic and non-GMO cotton farmer, I wake up each and every morning to an uneasy notion: We are surrounded and heavily outnumbered.
Over 100,000 acres of cotton is planted in my home county (Howard) here in West Texas. More than 90 percent of that is genetically modified cotton these days.
Every field on our farm either borders or is within one mile of fields where Roundup Ready cotton is planted year after year. On a 20-mile stretch of road between my house and our farthest field, we're the only family farm remaining that is not planting GMO crops.
Still, it's not about the odds. It's about what is right. It's about creating more life, not vanquishing it.
Poisoned and invaded
Each spring, neighbours begin firing up their 100-foot, $200,000 spray rigs, pumping out gallon after gallon of Roundup, filling our environment with hundreds of millions of gallons of the nation's highest-selling herbicide.
Some spray in 20 mph+ winds, which happen almost daily here from February to July. It's as if climbing on board one of these menacing spray rigs convinces some people the laws of physics do not apply. Not only can technology make us apathetic and arrogant, it can also make us ignorant.
Some neighbours assure me, "I'd never intentionally drift on you." Or my personal favourite, "I'm only putting out ten pounds of pressure. It won't drift." Really? Ever heard of parts per million?
One neighbour sprayed in 30mph winds blowing straight toward my 250 acres of organic cotton. My plants had just reached the surface, knowing sunlight for almost 48 hours before he blasted away like a machine-gun sniper, picking off millions of baby plants in a matter of minutes. The front 50 acres looks like a bomb went off on the surface.
Often, Roundup will not kill the plants. They merely suffocate, struggling to survive until they process the poison out of their system. This often takes up to three weeks, stunting the crops. They're unable to grow or mature during this time-frame. All of their energy goes into surviving. This impacts the yield and overall vitality of the crop.
The real "tattle-tales" in nature are the Roundup Ready cotton plants I find sporadically in my field. They represent one to two percent of the total population, but when a completely healthy plant stands six inches taller than the rest, you know what it is and how real the seed contamination risks are in our business.
To date this season, we've had more than 300 acres damaged by Roundup drift. I've turned in four cases to the TDA (Texas Department of Agriculture). The crops won't recover this season. Neither will my blood pressure.
Taking a stand and fighting back
We're not the only farmers experiencing this. Every organic cotton farmer I know goes through this every spring. And it's getting worse. Each season, some GMO farmers get more and more careless in the conditions in which they spray, affecting all those around them.
Some non-GMO farmers are giving up and planting GM seeds rather than cause problems with neighbours or standing up in this fight. This worries me. Why are not more farmers willing to make a stand? What are we afraid of? If we don't make the stand, who will?
Of the 12 million plus acres of cotton planted each year in the U.S., more than 90 percent are GMOs. Less than 14,000 acres are organic. Farmers as a whole are an endangered species since we represent about one percent of the U.S. population, but organic and non-GMO farmers are becoming as scarce as a Mexican spotted owl in the wild.
If we stay silent in these times; then shame on us. If we continue to take the beatings of chemical drift, and GMO contamination from cross-pollination, without fighting back, then how do expect to ever survive this invasion of our rights to farm in a healthier manner?
How do we expect organic and non-GMO agriculture to survive for future generations? We need more education and awareness spread in our farming communities on herbicide drift problems, but that won't happen if we remain silent. It won't happen unless we are willing to stand up and fight.
Neighbours becoming enemies
Out of 25 potential neighbours, we only have one who calls us to let us know he is spraying. Just one. Being a "neighbourly" farmer has taken on a new look in the 21st century for most.
Speaking with one neighbour (who farms close to 10,000 acres of GM cotton) I've known my entire life on the phone, he stated, "I just hate to see you make enemies." My response was, "Making enemies is not my intention. Getting their attention is."
And with Monsanto's future line of 2-4,D resistant GM seeds. I've made a decision. No more neighbourly discounts. I don't care if it is my cousin, best friend, or anyone else, but any and every time I suspect Roundup drift, I'm dealing with the TDA.
At least they provide free testing on tissue analysis for glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup.) Plus, my neighbours have to provide spraying data sheet information, as well as uncomfortable interviews and investigations from the TDA. Fines and fees may be assessed. This summer alone, more than a dozen different neighbours have had to submit spray logs and conduct interviews with a TDA agent. They can count on more of the same in the future.
Fighting for our future and for agriculture and healthy food
I stay vigilant, monitoring every section of our fields. I'm constantly reminding our neighbors to please not spray in high winds. There is very little education and awareness when it comes to herbicide drift. Most farmers don't believe these chemicals will drift more than 100 yards. I've seen them drift up to one mile. Most farmers think simply because winds are below 10mph, these chemicals won't drift. Many biological factors come into play such as humidity, inversion, soil and moisture conditions.
Most likely, I can't tackle Monsanto in the court of law. But I will not hesitate to sue my own neighbours if this recklessness continues to damage our farming operation and abilities to grow non-GMO plants each and every season. That's a fair fight. It is an unfortunate one. But at least it is fair. I don't know any billionaire farmers.
Am I popular right now in my farming community? Not at all. But at least my neighbours now know what I'm willing to do to protect our crops. Is this the end-all of my predicament? Hardly. But I am able and willing to fire back.
As organic and non-GMO farmers, we're expected to always be defensive because we're in the minority these days. Playing offense is the only way we can expect to protect the health of our own crops and land, as well as agriculture's future. We must be determined to stand up against the invasion of destructive chemicals even if that means standing up against our own neighbours.
Visit Eric Herm’s website at www.sonofafarmer.com for more information.