An experiment with straw bale gardening sounds innocuous, and before my father and I started having “discussions” about using treated straw, I never would have imagined straw bale gardening could be a source of discontent. Turns out, my father and I can disagree about anything, straw bales included.

Our current bone of contention is innocuous enough: straw bale gardening. My father read the book Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten. My father also attended a popular lecture given by a local woman named Carleen Rose at our Big Rapids Community Library, popular in part due to Ms. Rose’s accidental mis-speak characterizing the organisms growing in her straw bales as “orgasms.” It went something along the lines of: “I saw all these orgasms all over my straw bales and was so excited! Oh my goodness, did I just say orgasms?? I meant organisms. There were organisms in my straw bales, not orgasms…” That was the first time I had heard of straw bale gardening being linked to orgasms, multiple ones at that. In essence, and mainly by accident, straw bale gardening became a popular topic of conversation in the local community.

To set the scene for straw bale gardening’s attractiveness for my father, it’s important to mention that my father tilled another patch of ground west of our Main Garden while his father, my grandfather (Grandpa Williams, to me), was undergoing a failed chemotherapy treatment for leukemia that eventually resulted in his death. While our family was struggling with my grandfather’s illness and death, my father tilled. He tilled and tilled, putting on his ear protection as his father had warned him to do (my Grandpa Williams had to retire from his law practice due to hearing loss), and my father tilled himself another garden, christened as my father’s West Garden.

My father’s garden has a surface of sand that my father thinks is hydrophobic, a type of sand placed in the location by the drilling company that came to drill for oil many years ago. My parents opposed the drilling and the destruction of the trees and land that came with it, but they had no means to stop it, because they didn’t own the mineral and drilling rights to the property. For the uninitiated, the drilling and mining right ownership meant that other owners were able to do a prospective drill to see if there were any harvestable oil or natural gas wells beneath the land. There weren’t any, thank goodness, but the sand that was left is considered by my father to be “hydrophobic,” meaning it repels water.

Hydrophobic soils can be naturally occurring, arising after extreme heat from fires changes the crystalline structure of soil. Hydrophobic soil can also arise from a waxy-type or oily residue in soil, but since my father believes the sand in his West Garden is hydrophobic,  my father has seen a possible means of addressing the poor soil in his West Garden  through straw bale gardening.

The West Garden is named in relation to our Main Garden, the family garden shared by my father and I, home to our animals, digging spots for my baby nieces and nephews and the bean crops we can every year, as well as the main tomato crops that we also can. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the Main Garden, acting as a nucleus to all of our family activities at my parents’ property. It is so central to our activities, in fact, that as we walk away from it, the babies routinely feel that they are leaving my parents’ property and eventually refuse to walk further down the trail. Leaving the property would be tough for a baby to do given that my parents own close to 300 acres, but the draw of the Main Garden is so intense, that even the babies recognize it, and all other designations of location emanate from the Main Garden.

My father has  moved away from chemical use in the Main Garden in deference to the animals consuming those chemicals and because I suffered horrible blistering burns on my face and hands after unwittingly putting straw in nesting boxes that I had not known was treated with 2,4-D. It took weeks for my face and hands to heal, and my family doctor told me I had suffered chemical burns. I tried to cover up the painful blisters, but they peeled and my face was a burning mess for a solid 6 weeks. We didn’t know the straw had been sprayed, but word to the wise, it’s always best to ask about a straw bale’s origins, something I know now to do with diligence.

Because it is convenient to pick up at our local feed store, and because my father believes he can overcome his soil deficiencies in the West Garden, my father has begun long rows of chemically treated straw under the belief that it won’t impact his garden, nor does it remain in the straw. We know the straw has been sprayed with 2,4-D because the local feed store employees told us when we asked that they only carried sprayed straw.

Since placing the straw in the West Garden, on two separate occasions, my father has had burning red skin on his face, itchy and watering eyes, an allergenic response that he sought treatment for at the doctor’s office, and my father believes it is from a medication he is taking. The doctor said it was an allergic reaction, most likely from the medication, but he also didn’t know about the straw. Twice now my father has had these reactions, each time he handles the straw, but he maintains it is not linked to the straw whatsoever.

Who knew you could argue about straw? I never did. Who knew that the book Straw Bale Gardens Complete would trigger family discord? I didn’t. The author of Straw Bale Gardens suggests doing a simple bioassay, a test crop, which really means planting some crops in the treated straw to see if it kills the crops, peas and tomatoes being good test crops. The problem is this: we have a very short season and don’t have time to try to grow two sets of crops. If straw bale gardening fails, we lose all of our produce for the season and have to try again a year later. That’s a big hit to take for an experiment, no garden produce whatsoever. It’s not really feasible to try.

Joel Karsten had one small section in his book about using treated straw, and while I remember reading it, I can’t find it listed in the index section to give you a place to read it for yourself, if you so choose. Karsten mentions testing with crops, there is only a small reference to this problem amidst a 176-page endorsement of the method, a method that without a good bale of straw, is for us, catastrophic. Given the importance of the growing material to the book’s purpose, the amount of attention given to using treated material is wholly inadequate. The illustrations of successful imagined gardens on pages 66-75 are beautiful, but there is virtually no information about how to make sure you are using a viable growing material without planting crops just to see if they die, which makes this method virtually unusable for anyone with a short growing season and no idea how to identify good straw, upon which the title itself is based.

Just because I start with the beginning, I looked to see what the chemical giant Monsanto had to say about herbicides and came up with this entertaining video about how harmless Round-Up is for people to drink, harmless enough to justify its use worldwide, but when offered a cup of Round-Up in water to drink, the Monsanto-mouthpiece refuses to drink it himself saying he is “not an idiot.” Life doesn’t get much better, so I would recommend a watch:

Apparently herbicides are safe for OTHER people to drink, not Monsanto supporters.

My father had routinely said that herbicides “break down” in Nature, that they don’t have a long-lasting effect. Whenever I am told that a chemical “breaks down,” I always wonder how quickly this happens and how, especially considering that the burns I suffered from 2,4-D treated straw did not seem to demonstrate any chemical break down. I began looking at scientific studies about 2,4-D to find out about the breakdown, and the information has perhaps been, if one is generous, reported with a positive but less than accurate slant, or if one is being honest, most likely just a misleading representation.

Strangely enough, tests on 2,4-D breaking down in soil are few and far between reports the World Health Organization:

In contrast to the large amount of work done on the analytical methodology of 2,4-D residues in plant material, the opposite is true for soils. Only two reports concerning the extraction of 2,4-D from soils have appeared, in which acidic ether (Woodham et al. l9l 1) and acidic acetone (Gutenman and Lisk 1964) were used to give recoveries of 84-102% and 79-81%, respectively, from fortified soils. Modifications of both these methods were used and a comparison of results was made. All samples were analyzed on a Microtek MT 220 equipped with a Ni63 electron capture detector and a Coulson electrolytic conductivity detector (CCD) Model C 321 operating in the halide mode.

Saying that “recoveries” of 84-102% in soils of chemical contaminants is not encouraging for the concept of these chemicals breaking down.

There is the conflicting report that “despite breakdown,” the chemical has been found in our water supplies, even back in 1996:

Despite its short half-life in soil and in aquatic environments, the compound has been detected in groundwater supplies in at least five States and in Canada [20]. Very low concentrations have also been detected in surface waters throughout the U.S. [23].

So, even if there are chemical residues in the soils, are their chemical residues in the food? Say we didn’t touch the soil ( I know, I know, impossible when you harvest your own food), would there be any risk to the family eating the food?

I looked for the old studies, the ones upon which current data is supposedly based, and it turns out that in our climate, the growing season is too short to allow the residue to break down on cereal grains or straw, which explains why I had such bad chemical burns just from handling the straw:

No residues were found in the harvested grain or threshed straw collected after 80 days. Klingman et al. (1966) found 58 ppm 2,4-D acid within one half-hour after spraying forage with 2.25 kg butyl ester/ha, which decreased to 5 ppm on the 7th day. Recoveries of 2,4-D residues from fortified soil samples using acidic acetone or acidic ether extraction gave recoveries in the range 8l-95%, with a lower limit of detection at the 0.01 ppm level

This means that although the chemical residues decreased with time, the scientists were still able to “recover from the soil, chemical residues.” Recovery in this sense means being able to find the chemical in the soil. The scientists were also able to find chemical residues on the food crops and straw up to sometime around the 2 and half month mark after spray application. After 2.5 months, the residues on the straw and grain must have broken down, because in 1966, no residue was found on the straw after 80 days. With one application of 2,4-D, breakdown on cereal grains and straw seemed complete after 80 days in 1966.

In 1975 the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues explained that 2,4-D is applied 14-21 days before harvest, so at least twice in the season, to kill off tall weeds:

However, when tall weeds growing up in the crop make harvesting
    difficult, if not impossible, 2,4-D herbicides may be applied 14-21
    days prior to harvest to destroy, defoliate or regulate the growth of
    the weeds so as to prevent interference with harvesting.

The 1975 study found that when 2,4-D is applied in the three weeks before harvest, chemical residue does taint food crops, but supposedly it shouldn’t matter because of the amount of contamination:

The data in Table 1 indicate that there is a noticeable
    accumulation of 2,4-D residues in the grain during the two weeks
    following application when treatment is made within 3 weeks of
    harvest. This is not unexpected in view of the systematic properties
    of the herbicide. However the amount of 2,4-D found in grain is not
    particularly great following normal rates of application, reaching
    levels above 0.5 mg/kg only at excessive rates of the order of
    10 kg/ha.

I always enjoy a little herbicide in the morning cereal, don’t you? Frankly, I don’t want to eat herbicides, but this mode of transmission is omitted from most toxicology study reports by the chemical industry who claim that since herbicides aren’t consumed, studies determining 2,4-D’s ability to cause cancer in rats and animals are invalid because no one eats the herbicide.  Seems like, in fact, they do. The average food consumer obviously does get exposed to 2,4-D by eating because the crops contain chemical residue.

Strangely enough, when I read the US Government’s Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Report, supposedly only people exposed to chemicals for a long time would have problems with 2,4-D, and even stranger, the Registry makes no mention of the fact that people are exposed to these chemicals since at least 1975, when one of the first reports proved people were eating these chemicals in our foods. Is 40 years of exposure long enough to cause problems?

One man who splashed pure 2,4-dichlorophenol on his arm and leg died shortly after the accident. Workers who made pesticides from chlorophenols and were exposed to chlorophenols as well as other chemicals through breathing and through the skin developed acne and mild injury to their livers. According to some studies, the risk of cancer was also slightly higher among workers who had made pesticides for a long time. These workers were exposed to very high levels of other chemicals as well as chlorophenols, so it is not certain whether the effects were caused by the chlorophenols or the other chemicals.

Animals that were given food or drinking water containing chlorophenols at high levels developed adverse or negative health effects. The major effects with exposure to high levels of chlorophenols were on the liver and the immune system. Also, the animals that ate or drank chlorophenols did not gain as much weight as the animals that ate food and drank water not containing chlorophenols.

Feeding rats and mice high doses of 2,4- dichlorophenol for a long time did not cause cancer. However, long-term treatment of rats and mice with high doses of 2,4,6-trichlorophenol in food caused leukemia in rats and liver cancer in mice, suggesting that 2,4,6-trichlorophenol may be a carcinogen. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that 2,4,6-trichlorophenol may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that the chlorophenols as a group, are possibly carcinogenic to man. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that 2,4,6-trichlorophenol is a probable carcinogen.

Sounds like as long as you don’t bathe in it, those chemicals are supposedly perfectly safe. We may as well live in the Land of Oz and dance down the yellow-brick road. How cheerful is it that we are pretty much immune to chemical contamination? Well, unless you spill it on your arm, and then you die, or unless you tack a little “6” on the end, and then that chemical causes cancer, but without spilling it on your arm or lacking that pesky 6, we should all follow the yellow brick road.

So what about the rat study? How was it figured? The Chicago Tribune published a report on the 1995 study that is referenced in the article basically saying 2,4-D is safe to consume, unless you tack a 6 onto the end.

The EPA relied on a 1995 Dow study that found rats dosed daily with 75 milligrams of pure 2,4-D per kilogram of body weight (or mg/kg) over a two-year period gained less weight and experienced changes in kidney, thyroid, liver, lung, reproductive organ and blood chemistry measures compared with untreated rats.

Rats that consumed the next lowest dose — 5 mg/kg — showed no ill effects. This is called the “no observed adverse effect level,” and it’s the most important measure in a pesticide toxicity study.

Next came a series of math exercises. As they always do, EPA officials divided that dose by a factor of 100 to account for the fact that rats and humans are different and some people have heightened sensitivity to chemicals.

Since the mid-1990s, the EPA has been required to divide again — this time by a factor of 10 — because Landrigan’s panel found children are more vulnerable than adults. This protection may be removed only if “such margin will be safe for infants and children.”

In the case of 2,4-D, the EPA kept it in place because its scientists couldn’t tell whether 2,4-D disrupts hormones, immunity and neurological development.

When the dividing was done, the EPA under President George W. Bush set the acceptable daily intake of 2,4-D at 0.005 mg/kg. Separate calculations showed that nobody was consuming too much, the EPA said at the time.

Safe daily limit is .005mg/kg? Back in 1975, crop residues showed that food contained .5mg/kg 2,4-D. We exceeded our daily safe limit for 2,4-D consumption by 100% back in 1975. I don’t understand the claims that people would only be exposed to 2,4-D through the skin (warning label information) when apparently the majority of consumers already eat most of our herbicide exposure, herbicides that remain on grain crops after a single diluted concentration of 2,4-D for up to 80 days.

Rat studies, rat studies. Does it all come down to rats? Maybe. If it doesn’t kill rats, it won’t kill us? Except that I did find a study that linked rat doses of 2,4-D to increased rates of cancers:

We found that 2,4-D acid iso-octylester caused the formation of atypical cell foci (ACF) in the pancreata and livers of rats. ACF that were formed experimentally by exposure to azaserine had increased diameter, volume and number of atypical cell foci/mm(2) and mm(3) after exposure to 2,4-D acid iso-octylester. Our observations indicated that this herbicide potentially is a cancer initiator.

And, it appears that absorption of 2,4-D through the skin increases when sunscreens are used and alcohol is consumed, another study on rats:

Skin from rats ingesting low (1.5 g/kg) medium (4.3 g/kg) or high (6 g/kg) ethanol doses or saline control was treated with a commercially available sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and octyl methoxycinnimate and transdermal absorption of 2,4-D was monitored. Ethanol increased penetration by a factor of 1.9, 2.0 and 2.5 for animals treated with 1.5, 4.3 and 6 g/kg respectively, demonstrating an ethanol-induced dose response. Sunscreen application to skin from ethanol gavagedrats caused 2,4-D absorption above that induced by ethanol alone by an additional factor of 1.3, 2.1 and 2.9 for 1.5, 4.3 and 6 g/kg respectively.

What are the take-aways from a rat study? Well, apparently that workers using 2,4-D shouldn’t drink alcohol but should continue with sunscreen. Of course, the chemical isn’t implicated. Rat studies are complicated.

Results of this study emphasize the importance of limiting excessive alcohol consumption in individuals with potential herbicide exposure rather than discouraging the use of sunscreens, since the consequences of UV-induced skin cancer are far more series than the risks that would be associated with observed increases in chemical exposure.

Since I can’t find THE definitive rat study that supposedly says that 2,4-D is safe, I looked for A rat study proving its safety, but this is what I came up with, a 1996 publication from the Extension Toxicology Network, a conglomeration of universities, including Michigan State, studying the effects of pesticides:

2,4-D fed to rats for 2 years caused an increase in malignant tumors [7]. Female mice given a single injection of 2,4-D developed cancer (reticulum-cell sarcomas) [7]. Another study in rodents shows a low incidence of brain tumors at moderate exposure levels (45 mg/kg/day) over a lifetime [1,7]. However, a number of questions have been raised about the validity of this evidence and thus about the carcinogenic potential of 2,4-D.

I can’t find this particular study on PubMed, which is strange, because all the other studies are easily accessible on PubMed and are available to we taxpayers, because our taxes that then become grants, help fund them. Rat studies seem to be rife with controversy, so I decided to look up whether or not people showed an effect from chemical exposure, and it turns out that the more chemicals are sprayed, the more children in the US are born with birth defects, particularly those children in areas where the most chemicals are sprayed:

To evaluate this hypothesis, 935 births to 34,772 state-licensed, private pesticide appliers in Minnesota occurring between 1989 and 1992 were linked to the Minnesota state birth registry containing 210,723 live births in this timeframe. The birth defect rate for all birth anomalies was significantly increased in children born to private appliers. Specific birth defect categories, circulatory/respiratory, urogenital, and musculoskeletal/integumental, showed significant increases. For the general population and for appliers, the birth anomaly rate differed by corp-growing region. Western Minnesota, a major wheat, sugar beet, and potato growing region, showed the highest rate of birth anomalies per/1000 live births: 30.0 for private appliers versus 26.9 for the general population of the same region. The lowest rates, 23.7/1000 for private appliers versus 18.3/1000 for the general population, occurred in noncrop regions. The highest frequency of use of chlorophenoxy herbicides and fungicides also occurred in western Minnesota. Births in the general population of western Minnesota showed a significant increase in birth anomalies in the same three birth anomaly categories as appliers and for central nervous system anomalies.                         

Forget rats, we apparently already have been unwitting human test subjects, and it turns out that infants and children bear the brunt of chemical sprays, including in another study linking 2,4-D exposure in children to more birth defects. Another, separate study, again compared 2,4-D exposure to birth defects and found that the more spray applied, the higher the rate of birth defects:

Significant increases in birth malformations were observed for the circulatory/respiratory category for combined sexes [odds ratio (OR) = 1.65; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.07-2.55]. A stronger effect was observed for the subcategory, which excluded heart malformations (OR = 2.03; 95% CI, 1.14-3.59). In addition, infants conceived during April-June–the time of herbicide application–had an increased chance of being diagnosed with circulatory/respiratory (excluding heart) malformations compared with births conceived during other months of the year (OR = 1.75; 95% CI, 1.09-2.80). Musculoskeletal/integumental anomalies increased for combined sexes in the high-wheat counties (OR = 1.50; 95% CI, 1.06-2.12). Infant death from congenital anomalies significantly increased in high-wheat counties for males (OR = 2.66; 95% CI, 1.52-4.65) but not for females (OR = 0.48; 95% CI, 0.20-1.15). These results are especially of concern because of widespread use of chlorophenoxy herbicides.

Our kids can apparently become innocent chemical test subjects, and chemical companies pressured the Obama administration to increase the supposed safe amount of chemical exposure, despite these studies.

Now, however, concentrations of 2,4-D application have increased to combat super weeds, and in response, the EPA says it’s safe to consume more 2,4-D because more of it is being applied. The Chicago Tribune also found that if GMO crops-2,4-D dependent are planted, children in the US will be some of the only children in the world consuming levels of 2,4-D that are internationally found to be unsafe.

If these crops are widely adopted, the government’s maximum-exposure projections show that U.S. children ages 1 to 12 could consume levels of 2,4-D that the World Health Organization, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Brazil and China consider unsafe.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had considered that exposure dangerous for decades as well. But the Obama administration’s EPA now says it is safe to allow 41 times more 2,4-D into the American diet than before he took office.

To reach that conclusion, the Tribune found, the agency’s scientists changed their analysis of a pivotal rat study by Dow, tossing aside signs of kidney trouble that Dow researchers said were caused by 2,4-D.

Because life is stranger than fiction, and I literally can’t make this shit up, after approving a Hulk-type 2,4-D back in 2015, the EPA filed a stay order in a federal court to overturn its own safety ruling, stating that the EPA believed they hadn’t reviewed all the evidence. In other words, the EPA tried to vacate and undo its earlier approval of the herbicide it had approved.

Now that the EPA is being investigated by Congress for its ruling that we are somehow safely capable of consuming 41 times the herbicide we could before just because Dow released a new product, the EPA is claiming that only one scientist is responsible for misleading the country about herbicide toxicity:

“We were concerned to learn that, during this process, EPA dismissed a key study linking 2,4-D to kidney abnormalities based on one scientist’s analysis, and in doing so, effectively gave the green light for 41 times more of the chemical to enter the America diet than was previously allowed,” the lawmakers wrote.

Seems the Chicago Tribune report triggered some more investigating. The same reporter who broke the story about the EPA rat study from 1995 that I quoted above, wrote the following:

The EPA is reconsidering its approval of Enlist Duo, but agency officials told the Tribune last December that its scientists solely are determining whether bigger no-spray zones are needed to protect endangered plants near the edges of farm fields. The fact that the agency’s review is focusing only on plants and not people was troubling to the lawmakers.

“These actions do not address questions about serious potential health risks brought to light by the Chicago Tribune,” the lawmakers wrote.

Aside from the fact that no one seems to worry about chemical companies using American children in unwilling and unethical experiments involving the toxicity of their chemicals, even when chemical exposure increases rates of birth defects, meaning our infants are damaged even in utero, how does it relate to straw bale gardening? Will treated straw bales even work for gardening?

Why not look at plants that are killed by 2,4-D to find out how long enough chemical residue remains in the straw or hay treated with 2,4-D. Let’s just take a look whether or not the chemical is still active by whether or not legumes, which are killed by 2-4,D will grow.

According to the North Caroline Cooperative Extension Service, herbicide residue in straw and hay, often used in gardens and for animal feed, is so pervasive that care should be taken not to introduce it into gardens, with herbicide residue lasting for up to 3 years on hay stored in a barn. The hay and straw I bought were stored in the perfect conditions to keep 2,4-D active for 3 years. No wonder I was so burned.  According to a 2,4-D Chemical Fact sheet, one of the salts of 2,4-D is the most toxic class “by eye exposure.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my father’s eyes were so irritated after handling the treated straw.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension report states that herbicides fed to animals in the form of contaminated hay remain active in the manure even after it is composted:

Depending on the situation, the herbicides can be deactivated in as few as 30 days, but some field reports indicate that complete deactivation and breakdown can take several years. Hay has been reported to have residual herbicide activity after three years’ storage in dry, dark barns. Degradation is particularly slow in piles of manure and compost. When mulches, manures, or composts with residual herbicide activity are applied to fields or gardens to raise certain vegetables, flowers, or other broadleaf crops, potentially devastating damage can occur (Table 2).

I can’t get the table to insert, but tomatoes, peas, grapes, strawberries,eggplants, potatoes, peppers and in a fit of exhaustion “vegetables, in general” are listed as being killed by herbicide residues.  So putting that straw in his garden has the potential to kill my father’s hope of vegetables this year and possibly for years afterward. The report goes on to state that the hay or straw is only safe on grass fields, not for growing crops.

The herbicides of concern can also remain active on the hay itself. Do not sell or give away treated hay (even if it is several years old) for use as mulch or for making compost. The hay can be sold for consumption by livestock and horses, but be sure the purchaser is aware that the herbicide may pass through into the manure. Advise people feeding this hay to their animals to spread the manure on grass pastures or grass hayfields, being sure to follow all safety guidelines and regulations. According to the labels, plant materials treated with these herbicides should not be considered safe for growing sensitive crops until the plant materials are completely decayed. Breakdown of the herbicides is most rapid in sunlight under warm, moist conditions and may be enhanced with irrigation

I didn’t know there were now safety guidelines for spreading manure. Maybe there are safety guidelines for spreading chemically contaminated manure? Note that there is no mention of a source for determining how the herbicide is broken down. The report doesn’t mention how you know if “breakdown” has occurred. Great. We have long rows of straw bales in a garden that have the potential to kill our next-row pole beans, flanked on the other side by tomatoes.

It’s depressing that these issues with herbicide contamination aren’t more broadly discussed. I didn’t even get into the numerous studies that have linked pesticides, and 2,4-D is also considered a pesticide (hell, that stuff kills everything!), with increased childhood cancers and 2,4-D’s specific link to non-Hodgkins lymphomas.

A basic study, though, tells us that the more we are exposed, the more likely we are to have an increase in cancer:

There was a 50% excess of NHL among men who mixed or applied 2,4-D (odds ratio [OR] = 1.5; 95% confidence interval = 0.9, 2.5). The risk of NHL increased with the average frequency of use to over threefold for those exposed 20 or more days per year (p for trend = 0.051). Adjusting for use of organophosphate insecticides lowered the risk estimate for frequent users (OR = 1.8), but adjustment for fungicide use increased the risk estimate (OR = 4.5).

NHL does not euphemistically relate to the National Hockey League but to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. There is a 300% increase in developing non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in men who mix or apply 2,4-D.

In the 2,4-D Chemical Watch Fact sheet, there is a listing stating that 2,4-D “breaks down” in soil, an article published in 1992 that cautions that the data found regarding soil breakdown in 2,4-D is site-dependent and cautioned that this information would be lost and the chemical could be misused:

For each parameter we suggest a “Selected Value” which we believe to be the best available, recognizing, however, that persistence and soil sorption are sensitive to specific site conditions. These Selected Values are being incorporated into pesticide environmental-impact risk assessment procedures by state and federal agencies, and are considered to be consensus values. However, there is a serious potential for misuse of these data, particularly the error of using small differences between active ingredients to make regulatory distinctions between them. The ability to relate these data to environmental impact is an essential need and is improving, but is currently at a primitive level.

Look, the study says that the little “6” we mentioned in 2,4-D being “safe” was already forecast back in 1992. Evaluating chemical impact in 1992 was considered “primitive,” and yet this study was used as the basis for studies claiming that 2,4-D breaks down.

I didn’t know my father and I could have disagreements with straw, because, quite honestly, I didn’t realize the depth of the politics involved in big farming that impacted me to such an extent. It’s not that I believe these things won’t affect me, but how could I know that straw was sprayed with 2,4-D? I was trying to give my birds fresh bedding. I have since moved to wood mulch that is chopped right on our property, and I have found an organic straw supplier. It only costs $4/bale for organic straw, and no burns!

I wish there was a way to communicate to those others who grow their own food that the food industry is far from transparent, and the chemical farming isn’t always forthright in representations of its own impact on others. It takes other farmers who have lost millions of dollars in lost crops to start some of the discussions on the ways in which large agriculture is infringing on the rights of all of our families to grow our own food. There are right to farm laws that protect our rights to grow our own foods, but what happens when big agriculture takes away those rights?

Meyers, founder of Vinetenders, LLC., is one of the region’s most experienced vineyard managers, with 35 years in what has become an internationally-acclaimed facet of Oregon agriculture. He says herbicide drift damages grapes, blueberries, nursery stock and organic crops — all valuable and expanding sectors of farming.

Meyers and other grape growers believe 2,4-D use should be banned from April through October, the growing season. Washington has taken that step and California has strict limitations as well. Vineyard operators are disappointed the Oregon Department of Agriculture hasn’t followed suit.

“We feel like we’ve now got a significant wine growing industry and we’re asking for similar protection,” said Doug Tunnell, owner of Brick House Vineyards. “People are losing revenue, losing grapes, every year; 2,4-D is so dangerous around grape vines.”

Guess in our little town I don’t know where to start. Straw bale gardening sure isn’t the panacea for poor soil if you happen to get a hold of straw sprayed with herbicides.

Now, it’s 11:45 at night. My daughter whispered that she was going up to bed without me over an hour ago as if she were kindly breaking some bad news to me. She kind of was–we love to read in bed at night, just for fun. And how to tell the family that my father’s garden may be no more?