Agrochemicals might be big business, but they are a bad deal for the environment and human health.
Israeli firm, Makhteshim-Agan Industries, believes that there is a bright future for chemical pesticides. It has just bet $1 billion dollars on this hope, buying out the Albough chemical manufacturer in a move which, according to Ha’aretz, will transform the Israeli company into the “biggest generic player” in North America’s pesticides industry.
There’s big money to be made from agrochemicals, although whether Makhteshim-Agan’s investment was wise financially remains a moot point since since Albough’s businesses focuses on a single product – the broad-spectrum herbicide, glyphosate:
“Glyphosate prices fluctuate tremendously, and there are clear signs of surplus production capacity around the world. Also, experts suspect that North American weeds are developing resistance to the chemical.”
But whichever way you add up the figures, investing in pesticides makes no ecological sense. Glyphosate shot to (in)fame when Mosanto genetically modified crops to become resistant to the herbicide, sold under the brand name “Roundup.”
The biotech firm’s GM “Roundup Ready” crops can be sprayed with glyphosate to their heart’s content, killing all weeds and other plants, but leaving the corn or soya unscathed.
We don’t need chemicals to produce good quality food. Organic farming forsakes dependence on artificial pesticides and fertilisers (which, by the way, are increasingly expensive as oil prices rise) – and it can produce good yields, especially in developing countries, whilst conserving soil fertility and biodiversity.
Modern organic methods, first developed after World War Two, are now used by millions of farmers around the world. But investment in organic farming research and production methods is woefully underfunded. Imagine the difference $1 billion could make it if was spent more wisely.
Postscript: As glyphosate’s efficacy falls due to increased weed resistance, its price is expected to drop and Monsanto estimates that the contribution that Roundup makes to its gross profits will be slashed from $300 to £250. Perhaps it’s time to rethink their strategy.
Photo via ken mccown