"Paraquat, the Deadliest Chemical in US Agriculture, Goes on Trial"

"Amid lawsuits filed by thousands of farmers linking the herbicide to Parkinson’s disease, the EPA is reconsidering its analysis of paraquat’s risks."

"The herbicide paraquat was sold to farmers as revolutionary. Its introduction into the marketplace in 1962 coincided with a growing awareness of overplowing soil, year after year, until it degrades. Looking to avoid another Dust Bowl, farmers were eager for ways to keep their soil intact. Chevron, a distributor of paraquat at the time, jumped on this opportunity, claiming the chemical was necessary for “no-till” farming. The idea, as Chevron branded it, was relatively simple: You don’t need a plow when there’s a toxicant that can kill any weed, disrupting the very process of photosynthesis, prepping a field without moving the soil.

“Let paraquat be your plow,” a 1972 Chevron advertisement in No Till Farmer, the leading resource on no-till methods, urged soil-conscious farmers. The chemical giant’s marketing edict turned into practice. “Basically, no tillage means substituting the contact herbicide Paraquat for your plow and other tillage tools, in the preparation of your seed bed,” reads an educational pamphlet distributed by Chevron in 1979. In 1984, an op-ed in The New York Times by a Chevron representative proclaimed that “the plow has been replaced with the use of herbicides,” celebrating the “quiet revolution.”

There are many ways to effectively practice no-till farming, a suite of practices aimed at minimizing soil disturbance, and one that many farmers consider a key component to regenerative or “climate-smart” farming. Some no-till farmers don’t use herbicides, opting for tools like the roller crimper to manage weeds. But most farmers rely on herbicides to replace tillage, a form of weed control. And although glyphosate (aka Roundup) has become the herbicide of choice for most farmers practicing no-till, paraquat has hung on, in part because it kills weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate."

Grey Moran reports for Civil Eats March 22, 2023.

Source: Civil Eats, 03/27/2023