I have recently returned from COP23 in Bonn where countries from across the world gathered to discuss how to achieve the targets agreed to in the Paris agreement. Specifically, how they can put in place measures to reduce emissions globally and to prevent the further advancement of global warming.
The European Union must be commended for their optimism and ambition in relation to current discussions on climate change, and even on the original conclusion of the Paris Agreement. The ‘high ambition coalition’, led to a large degree by the EU, managed to secure an ambitious agreement in Paris which looked to the future and looked to ensure future generations would not suffer the potentially disastrous impacts of devastating climate change.
Those of us involved in farming know, better than most, the impact that climate change will have on our society. Therefore, we are more conscious of these effects than most. Farmers practising Conservation Agriculture are an example of farmers that have decided to do something about it, to play our part in reducing emissions, and better still to sequester carbon from the atmosphere in our fields. By discontinuing ploughing we remove carbon from the atmosphere, and store it directly in the soil. This carbon benefits the growth of our crops and it improves soil life and biodiversity.
This practice, Conservation Agriculture, is a perfect example of real-life measures we can implement in order to make the commitments made in the Paris Agreement possible.
In order to practice Conservation Agriculture, and achieve the environmental and climatic benefits it entails, we eliminate all ploughing of our fields. In order to clear weeds from the field, we require the limited use of effective and efficient herbicides, in particular, glyphosate.
The current discussion on glyphosate in Europe seems however, to be in complete contradiction to the efforts of the EU in terms of climate change. Why would a group of countries so determined to meet the Paris Agreement targets, take away the most essential tool for their farmers to play their part in achieving this? If glyphosate is banned, every farmer practising Conservation Agriculture, or reduced tillage, will be forced to return to deep ploughing of the soil, releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and producing greater emissions by driving tractors and ploughs through fields repeatedly.
It is astounding that it is often the same people that wish to see action on climate change, that are calling for a ban on glyphosate.
Thankfully, as President of Aapresid, the Argentinian Conservation Agriculture association, I will be able to continue practising Conservation Agriculture, continue to reduce the carbon in our atmosphere and to reduce my emissions. As will all the members of Aapresid. However, our colleagues and friends in Europe may not and this would be a terrible situation for everyone that wishes to see us prevent the advancement of climate change.
I hope that the governments across the EU wake up and realise that banning glyphosate will be like shooting themselves in the foot. I hope that my friends and colleagues across the European Union will continue to have access to such a vital and beneficial tool, and I hope that despite all of the noise, that science will prevail over emotion.
Pedro Vigneau is the President of Aapresid and a fifth-generation farmer. He is a Conservation Agriculture cereal farmer with 1,500 hectares of farmland in Bolivar, a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Aapresid is the representative organisation of Conservation Agriculture farmers and community in Argentina.