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Are we killing the land?

I'm sure everyone has noticed the strips of dead, brown foliage along the right-of-way of every power line in the county. It looks like someone has sprayed the trees and bushes with Agent Orange. And, in fact, that's what they've done.

Glyphosate, which is one of the ingredients of the infamous defoliant used during the Vietnam War and is now linked to so many cases of cancer in veterans, is what Roundup is made from. In fact, since 2016 Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) has been hit with multiple lawsuits claiming either Roundup caused cancer or the company failed to inform consumers that it might cause cancer. Over and over again, juries have found this to be true, awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

It has gotten so bad that Costco quit carrying Roundup.

The mega-billion-dollar chemical companies have undoubtedly bought some favor in Congress through their lobbyists, and they have helped groom a generation of leaders in agriculture that think no-till is the way to go.

In no-till farming, the farmer does not plow his fields. He does not enrich the soil. Instead, he kills everything so he can plant what he wants. A field is sprayed with Roundup to kill everything growing. Then chemical fertilizer is spread on the field, and genetically engineered (GMO) seeds are planted.

The seeds are patented by the seed company (usually Monsanto), to not be affected by Roundup. So, the poison kills everything but the corn or soybean that has been planted. And if some errant weeds begin to spring up, the farmer can just spray some more.

Everything from the seed to the fertilizer to the poison is manufactured by, and purchased from, the big-ag corporation -- usually Monsanto.

The farmer does not plow the field with his tractor or mules. He does not fertilize the field with manure from his livestock. He does not plant seed from last year's crop. He is completely, totally dependent on the corporation for his livelihood.

In the process, the field has lost its natural fertility. The field itself is completely, totally dependent on the corporation for its ability to produce anything. It can't produce food.  It has no life in it. The land has become sterile.

And what is the quality of the food? Quite apart from the nutritional value of food raised in sterile soil, there is the question of how much of the glyphosate (Roundup) makes it into the consumer's bloodstream.

According to a study conducted in Indiana last year, over 90 percent of pregnant women tested had measurable amounts of glyphosate in their urine, and the amount of glyphosate found in their system directly correlated to shortened pregnancies (i.e., premature birth).

I understand why a farmer might choose to use chemicals over more traditional forms of farming. They are cheaper, less labor intensive, and less time consuming. As the average age of farmers rises into the 60's and the number that can farm full-time shrinks, these are valid concerns.

But at what cost?

I stopped to look at an empty corn field a couple of years ago, right here in Sequatchie County. I was shocked at what I saw. Even though it was November and the corn had long-since been harvested, there were ears of corn dotting the ground under the dry stalks.

The corn was intact. It had not rotted. No crow, no raccoon, and no deer had even offered to eat it. Now if the animals don't want it, why do we? I understand that it was probably being raised for ethanol or some other non-food use, but why would we turn a field of food into gasoline?

Are we killing the land that fed our parents and grandparents?

There are all kinds of methods and knowledge available now that even they might not have had – alternative natural fertilizers, and pest control that impacts the environment less. Maybe if we use more natural methods, the bees that pollinate our fruit and vegetable crops will stop dying off.

Maybe our people will stop dying off. Back when all food was organic (without any government stamp to guarantee it) not so many people got cancer.

Maybe we could learn something from those who've gone before.  Our parents and grandparents had wisdom and knowledge from which we could all benefit.  I am reminded of a favorite saying of my Dad when I was growing up: If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Let's stop killing our land and let it live -- and give life -- again.