It was both shocking and sad to read a letter in the County Standard earlier this month suggesting that the local council should be using vinegar, salt or boiling water to replace glyphosate.

Shocking, to realise that someone’s knowledge of pesticides is so poor, sad because this sort of puerile nonsense could lead to the banning of one of the safest and most widely used herbicides ever discovered.

Dealing with the three suggested alternatives first: vinegar is not approved for use as a herbicide, it contains acetic acid known to be very toxic to bees and other wildlife. Salt has a higher toxicity than glyphosate and remains in the soil to affect future sowings. Boiling large amounts of

dihydrogen monoxide (i.e. water) and keeping it hot enough to kill a weed is likely to need an enormous amount of energy, apart from being totally impractical.

As far as glyphosate is concerned the writer is correct in stating that it contains carbon and phosphate, but it has no relationship to the old organophosphates used as insecticides or nerve gas. Even a visit to the website of the Pesticide Action Network, an organisation set up to oppose pesticide use, reveals those facts and states that glyphosate has very low toxicity. The problem is that, like all pesticides, glyphosate has to be regularly reviewed and campaigners are using this opportunity to stir up political controversy.

For the tiny percentage of the population involved in producing the nation’s food it is difficult to get sufficient numbers of lobbyists to counter these campaigners.

Surely, governments should not rely on perception but use proper scientific data which is so often conveniently ignored by those wishing to ban any and every pesticide.

I feel the indiscriminate use of weedkillers by councils, gardeners or farmers is to be greatly discouraged.

Professional users have to be fully trained and qualified to use any pesticide and it is surprising that so many products can be sold over the counter to anyone, even if they have no specific safe storage space and, sometimes, no idea of whether it is a herbicide, fungicide or insecticide.

If glyphosate is banned for farm use the consequences are unimaginable.

Since stubble burning was banned weed control has become more difficult and the limited amount of new herbicides being developed has created severe infestations of pernicious weeds such as blackgrass.

By allowing weeds to germinate after harvest and before sowing the next crop they can be destroyed with glyphosate. In addition to obviating the use of more undesirable herbicides the farmer does not have to carry out so many deep cultivations to kill these weeds, and this is something environmentalists are encouraging us to do.

Glyphosate can also be used as a dessicant to help with the harvesting of crops. Readers should be assured that the perception of farmers wanting to spray or kill everything in sight is not the reality. We don’t want to spend money if it is not necessary, we want consumers to feel they are getting safe food at reasonable prices and we just ask that scientific facts are respected.

Although the recent rains have been very localised there are few farmers complaining about drought this year. Many local farms have had more than twice the average June rainfall and although many crops have enjoyed a soaking they also need sunshine and let us hope we get some good weather now.

Prolonged dull, cool, wet conditions can encourage some quite nasty fungal diseases, but let us not cry “disaster” yet. Perhaps mid-summer rains herald some good harvest weather later. Then the farmers and holidaymakers will all be happy!