Allotment and home-gardeners around Britain are outraged at the discovery that their carefully tended, organic vegetable crops have been contaminated by manure containing traces of the hormone-based herbicide animopyralid.
The herbicide—introduced just two years ago by Dow AgroSciences Ltd and found in several of its products—is not approved for use on food crops. It appears the contamination has come from fields sprayed with the herbicide one year ago—to control weeds such as dock and thistle—which was then made into hay and fed to cows whose manure was sold to gardeners.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been inundated with calls from concerned gardeners who have watched potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and salad vegetables wither, rot or become deformed. While, the society admits it has no idea of the extent of the problem, it says it appeared ‘significant’.
Colin Bowers, Dow’s UK grassland marketing manager, said the company was unable to advise gardeners that it was ‘safe’ to consume vegetables that had come into contact with the manure because of pesticide regulations. The company website advises: ‘As a general rule, we suggest damaged produce (however this is caused) should not be consumed.’ Those who have applied the contaminated manure are being advised not to replant on the affected soil for at least one year.
Shirley Murray, who tends a plot in an allotment in southwest London, said several of her neighbors had used the same manure and all were affected. ‘I am absolutely incensed at what has happened and find it scandalous that a weed killer sprayed more than one year ago, that has passed through an animal’s gut, was kicked around on a stable floor, stored in a muck heap in a field, then on an allotment site and was finally dug into or mulched on to beds last winter is still killing “sensitive” crops and will continue to do so for the next year,’ she said.