A largely ignored news story that may be the most important of the decade

I reckon this changes everything. Or it should change everything, if the powers that be allow it to and if enough people want it to.



Monsanto, which became a unit of Bayer AG in June, has spent decades convincing consumers, farmers, politicians and regulators to ignore mounting evidence linking its glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer and other health problems. The company has employed a range of tactics – some drawn from the same playbook used by the tobacco industry in defending the safety of cigarettes – to suppress and manipulate scientific literature, harass journalists and scientists who did not parrot the company’s propaganda, and arm-twist and collude with regulators. Indeed, one of Monsanto’s lead defense attorneys in the San Francisco case was George Lombardi, whose resumé boasts of his work defending big tobacco.

Now, in this one case, through the suffering of one man, Monsanto’s secretive strategies have been laid bare for the world to see. Monsanto was undone by the words of its own scientists, the damning truth illuminated through the company’s emails, internal strategy reports and other communications.

The jury’s verdict found not only that Monsanto’s Roundup and related glyphosate-based brands presented a substantial danger to people using them, but that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Monsanto’s officials acted with “malice or oppression” in failing to adequately warn of the risks.

Testimony and evidence presented at trial showed that the warning signs seen in scientific research dated back to the early 1980s and have only increased over the decades. But with each new study showing harm, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products, but to create its own science to show they were safe. The company often pushed its version of science into the public realm through ghostwritten work that was designed to appear independent and thus more credible. Evidence was also presented to jurors showing how closely the company had worked with Environmental Protection Agency officials to promote the safety message and suppress evidence of harm.

The ramifications, however, are much broader and have global implications. Another trial is set to take place in October in St Louis and roughly 4,000 plaintiffs have claims pending with the potential outcomes resulting in many more hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in damage awards…

This is a well-written and sourced essay (see the original for sources) and I really can’t understand why it isn’t top billing on all the news networks. Actually, I can, unhappily.

BHAF newsletter

Many of you will have had the BHAF newsletter a few days ago from the always excellent Mark Carroll. The following few paragraphs are perhaps particularly interesting…

Allotment Rents

We are trying to address the perennial thorny problem of allotment costs and allotment rents. As you are all aware, according to the Council its costs more to provide the service to us than we raise in allotment rent. There is a deficit which we have been trying to reduce. Allotments in the City in general will be in a much safer position if they are cost neutral to the Council.

Whenever we ask plotholders the question about the amount of rent they pay we are presented with two opposing views. Some plotholders tell us that they already struggle to pay the fee each autumn, and any increase along with the other costs of compost, tools and seeds could possibly make them give up their allotment. They point out that allotments were intended for people on low wages and should be kept as cheap as possible.

We also have other people telling us that allotments are unbelievably cheap  and that they would gladly pay double! Allotmenteers these days come from a much wider spectrum of society than they have historically. We have plot holders who work on the minimum wage and on zero hours contracts and we also have allotmenteers who are doctors and lawyers earning substantially more, but they all pay the same rent.

While it is impossible to ‘means test’ people to work out their allotment rent, we feel that people who would ‘gladly pay double’ should perhaps consider making voluntary over payments in order to keep allotments affordable for all sections of society. To this end, and after consulting Site Reps on the idea, we have approached the Council and asked them to look at a payment system that would allow people on higher wages to voluntarily over pay their allotment rent. The amount would be ring fenced to the allotment service and would not disappear into wider Council coffers! Some people are sceptical that many people would overpay, however I am optimistic and I think we should at the very least test it and see what happens.

A preliminary look shows that if just 15% of tenants voluntarily overpaid by £40 a year it would raise around an extra £15,000! Together with our water savings, improved letting rates and the money raised from the waiting list payments, it’s possible that we could see the deficit shrink to almost nothing or even disappear.

Mark always has interesting ideas, and it’d be nice if this one flew…

A day on the streets with the urban forager

Saw this article by Nosheen Iqbal in the Guardian this week and thought it might interest some of you. I think it’s probably strictly for people who know what they’re doing, esp when it comes to things like ragwort. Even Topham has poisoned himself twice. Be careful!



“Smell this!” Chef and wild food enthusiast Nurdin Topham is inhaling a lungful of shrub called pineappleweed, picked fresh from a stretch of east London formerly known as Murder Mile. He hands me a couple of yellow buds with an instruction to sniff; sweet fruitiness floats under my nose. Topham takes a chew. I gamely follow suit. The clue, it seems, is in the name: we’re eating what vaguely tastes like pineapple and feels a lot like chewing grass. “This is food,” he explains, as we ramble on, to forage for a lunch he will be cooking later.

The future of food and our relationship with nature is at the core of Topham’s philosophy for what he calls “nourishing gastronomy”, a subject he will deliver a lecture on this week at FutureFest in London. He has two decades of experience in the field, first as a qualified nutritionist and personal development chef for Raymond Blanc, and later as head of NUR, his own Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong.

“Wild food is about connecting to our ancestors and to the earth we’re living on,” he says, as we tramp past the early morning joggers and dogwalkers of the local park. “It’s a struggle living in the city – I long for a more outdoors life – but picking food in an urban setting helps.”

Although he was born in London, Topham grew up, I’m not surprised to learn, surrounded by rolling fields, forests and orchards in the Brecon Beacons. His father, Anthony “Top” Topham, who was the lead guitarist in 1960s band the Yardbirds before Eric Clapton joined, converted to Islam and moved his young family to the good life, where they had a Muslim upbringing, grew their own food and made their own jams.

Nurdin’s first wild food experiment was with nettle soup, made outdoors in the dark with his best friend, aged around eight or nine, and hastily gulped down. “We proudly took it indoors to show our parents – under the light we discovered it was crawling with caterpillars.”

Since then, he has managed to poison himself twice but also to establish himself as an authority on cooking more closely with nature. “I wouldn’t force foraging down anyone’s throat,” he says, by way of joyful apology.

Continue reading at https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/30/urban-forager-nurdin-topham-wild-food-plants-herbs

Tubers of Oca

Elizabeth writes:

Some of us have tubers of Oca, thanks to this year’s seedling swap. I have found a useful website, see below, explaining how to grow these but the key points seems to be:

  1. Do not harvest the underground tubers until the last remnants of foliage has become frosted and died off from late November and into December.
  2. Each tuber makes quite a bushy plant so allow at least 90cm (36″) between plants


Good luck!


Tea and cake on Sunday

Stacey says:

Hello Everyone

We were aiming for a bench making sunday 17th but haven’t come up with the goods.
Instead we are coating the site next to the hut with black plastic to try to kill off the weeds that are flourishing and enjoying this lovely summer far too much.

The plan is to leave it covered until next spring when we can try again to create a meadow for the wildlife and for the users of the allotment to enjoy.

If you would like to come and join us we are meeting Sunday at 2pm at the Hut on the upper site.

There will be cups of tea and cake to enjoy while we watch Paul digging.

Best wishes

Here’s a picture of the committee planning the work.

Regency Town House Rhubarb Cake

From Stacey:

Thanks everyone for contributing to a beautiful Sunday afternoon with your generous offerings of seedlings and cake

If you have a surplus of rhubarb here’s the delicious recipe for Ellen’s Rhubarb cake.

Regency Town House Rhubarb Cake

  • 200g brown sugar 200g butter
  • 350g self raising flour 4 eggs
  • 350 – 400g rhubarb
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange

Chop the rhubarb and marinate in the juice and zest with a tablespoon of the sugar for an hour.

Cream the butter and remaining sugar, then add the eggs in small quantities with a teaspoon of flour.

When the eggs are fully mixed in, fold in the remaining flour. Add a splash of milk if it is very stiff. Then add the rhubarb and juice. Mix well.

Pour into a greased 25 cm cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes at 180c fan / 200c.