Thursday, 22 June 2017

Dangerous illegal ragwort quack treatments

One of the real problems in working on this issue is scientific ignorance.
People often have no clue what they are talking about and this one is a classic.
It is also illegal!

Let's start with an example. Chemicals sound as if they are nasty because they have exotic and funny sounding names. Let's take these two ethanoic acid and
n-phosphonomethyamino-ethanoic acid. These are both chemicals. In fact I bought some of the first one this morning and I am going to eat it later.
This is not as bad as it sounds as ethanoic acid also known by its older name of acetic acid  is the main constituent of vinegar. A chip shop up the road from me has reopened under new management and I am going to try them out.
The other chemical is a weedkiller commonly called Glyphosate or Roundup. It can also be called n-phosphonomethyglycine

This is what the originators of a quack ragwort treatment say.

I do my best at my place not to use weedkillers in the fields. I don’t want Roundup or anything similar near me or my animals, or any of the other little creepies and crawlies that live here, especially the bees, or the many hares, badgers, bats, swallows, raptors, and so on. I like to think of it as a mini nature reserve of sorts, so, no nasty stuff is allowed.

I have been attempting to wage war on ragwort with topical applications of homemade stuff for literally years. Salt on its own (a generous pile poured on the cut off root of the plant) didn’t work. Vinegar didn’t work. I have forgotten the other things I tried… they didn’t work. Creosote worked, but is another horrible chemical that I’d rather not use in my fields! 
My current concoction definitely does the trick. No regrowth either – I took these photos months ago when the earliest rosettes came through. No sign at all of any regrowth.

 The eventual concoction contains domestic washing detergent which contrary to the author's assertions can be an extremely nasty stuff to have around. It contains a load of stuff that you really wouldn't want to throw around in large quantities in the environment. One common ingredient is 
4-(5-Dodecyl) benzenesulfonate which is toxic to fish at concentrations of only around 4 parts per million in water. Imagine this being used near a trout stream.

The Health and Safety Executive are very clear on the law on pesticide use, which includes weedkillers.

Before any pesticide product can be used, sold, supplied or stored it must be authorised for use.
So let's be clear these homemade cocktails of chemicals are ILLEGAL and you can be prosecuted for using them. This is because they have not been tested for safety. This is a European rule that applies throughout the EU.

Now I am not a lawyer but I have looked into this matter but it seems quite possible from the case histories I have looked at that section 8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, which is still law in the UK, applies.

Whosoever shall aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of any indictable offence, whether the same be an offence at common law or by virtue of any Act passed or to be passed, shall be liable to be tried, indicted, and punished as a principal offender.
This would mean that if you pushed this idea on websites or social media you could be prosecuted for doing so. Remember it is very likely to be toxic to wildlife so we  know that so if someone does cause a fish kill or something else or someone is just looking for someone to make an example of, and you have been pushing this as a cure, you could face prosecution.

One other point the author of the website article also states that she has tried Creosote as a weedkiller.
This is ironic because one of the reasons that there is no test for ragwort poisoning is that there are other chemicals which produce the exact same microscopic changes in the liver. Creosote is a mixture of all sorts of nasties and it is likely that it contains compounds which would produce those changes,.

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

States of Jersey puts out ragwort fake news.

The States of Jersey has put out fake news i.e. false and inaccurate information on its own laws.

They have told people that there is a legal obligation to control ragwort when there is not.

They put out a tweet directing people to a website with the following false information on it.,

Land occupier obligation and the law

Ragwort is specified as an Injurious Weed under the Weeds (Jersey) Law 1961 which requires occupiers to prevent it from spreading.
Land occupier co-operation is required to control this weed and prevent it from maturing, seeding and ultimately spreading throughout the island. This is a legal requirement if you are the occupier of the land upon which the weed is growing.

This is not true.

There is a law on Jersey called the Weeds (Jersey) Law1961
 It does not say what that website says. It is basically a copy of the UK's Weeds Act, It says :-

The Minister, if satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this Law applies growing upon any land, may cause to be served on the occupier of the land a notice in writing requiring him or her, within the time specified in the notice, to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the injurious weeds from spreading.
To use an analogy. In the UK there are Curfew Orders which allow authorities to tell parents to keep their children off the streets in problem areas. This doesn't mean that there is a universal requirement on parents to keep their children inside all the time. Just like with ragwort orders can be made to deal with specific problems.

When there were additions to the  Weeds Act in the UK. In the form of the oddly named Ragwort Control Act ( It only creates a Code of Practice and doesn't oblige control) It was originally planned to make it force control but this was decided against. Claims from firms making statements like this in the UK have been stopped after action by the Advertising Standards Authority.

There is also the issue that it has been repeated by the BBC!

Further information can be obtained from these documents from  Friends of the Earth. They cover the legal position in the UK, but as I said the Jersey law is just a copy of the UK one.


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Friday, 14 April 2017

Animals can eat quite a bit of ragwort with impunity.

Today I am using this blog, as I sometimes, do to explain something that a tweet would not be able to hold and this time I have some new information which I haven't made public before.

I run a website which has all the technical side of things and I use this blog for more informal things or for stories that are current.

The matter has arisen of the usual nonsense being put out by some government body or other that is based on the nutty stories being circulated by equine organisation.

The matter has come up of a small number of poisoning cases recorded on the island of Ireland. Well the organisation recording these seems to get things badly wrong.

First of all the toxins in ragwort are found in 3% of plants  and secondly there is no definitive test . Mouldy feed can cause the same problem and I am told there are cattle cases where ragwort has been claimed as a cause in England where it is pretty obvious that it can't be.

This is covered on my website here There is no test for ragwort poisoning

So you can't say that a case is caused by ragwort unless you have direct evidence that ragwort is to blame and these would be abuse cases where animals are starved into eating it.

The new information is this. The research indicates that cattle can eat considerable amounts, ranging into the hundreds of grams a day without harm.
It may also be possible to use the research to show this is also the case for horses. Those of us working to counter the hysteria this would not be surprising. since we know that one plant used as feed contains the same class of toxins  in reduced amounts and the animals eat it without harm.

I haven't put all of this on the website yet because I am still tracking down some of the scientific papers. In some cases I am relying on papers which refer to other papers and I haven't seen these primary sources yet.  There may be as many as half a dozen papers required to sort it all out. I need experiments from one place and nformation on alkaloid concentrations elsewhere etc etc.

One thing is clear the odd plant of ragwort in a field is not going to be a problem.
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