[Editor’s note: Frank Hassler is chief ecologist with Good Oak Ecological Services, which works to provide sustainable landscaping and land restoration]
As a professional ecological land manager and lifelong environmentalist, I find myself in a strange position these days defending pesticides, in particular the herbicide glyphosate.
When carefully targeted and used with due caution, herbicides are an extremely effective and efficient tool to control weeds and invasive plants. In fact, they can have considerably less environmental impact than the many "traditional" control methods. For example, tilling a weedy field often leads to erosion and siltation in local streams. Glyphosate allows the use of no-till farming practices that drastically reduce erosion. Pulling weeds like garlic mustard disturbs the soil, and weeds, including garlic mustard, thrive in disturbed soils. Don’t forget that gas-powered digging and mowing tools are a major source of urban air pollution.
Certainly, we should be cautious about any artificial chemical that people or wildlife come in contact with. And like medicines, we should use as little as possible and only when necessary. But what we know about glyphosate, a chemical that has been heavily scrutinized over the past few decades, is that it is largely safe when used correctly. Let us please base future discussion and policies on facts and reason, not accusation and trumped-up rhetoric.
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