“Without glyphosate, many of us would have to abandon our orange plantations”

Think Valencia and think oranges. But that way of life would be under threat if glyphosate were to be prohibited. José Luis Francés Escandey, 46, an orange farmer from the Valencia region of Spain, explains why

 

“Ever since I was a young boy I have always liked agriculture and the rural way of life. My father always grew citrus crops and so I followed him. I have now been an agricultural engineer for 20 years, advising farms in various parts of Spain and other countries. But what I like most is having my own land. I have about 30 hectares of mainly fruit trees.

Citrus crops, and oranges specifically, are hugely important to Valencian society, and our economy. For almost 100 years, fruit crops in the Valencian region have represented a high percentage of its gross domestic product.

“I can’t think of a single farmer who wants to make profit at the expense of the health of the final consumer, whether someone else, or his own family.” José Luis Francés Escandey, Citrus Farmer, Spain

I remember when, as a child, I walked with my father and my grandmother around the family farms and ate those first oranges of the season. It was about 1975, when I was five years old. Those memories are very dear to me; they formed who I was then and what I became. I continue those traditions now, using some of the methods that my father taught me, and I remember him now in everything I do.

Why I use glyphosate

Weeds can be a big problem for us. They are competition for the trees; they absorb the fertilizers that we apply to our crops. They are also a haven for pests. If we didn’t eliminate the weeds, the pests would pass more easily onto our crops and, as a result, we would have to use other pesticides.

Beyond that, if we allowed weeds to grow unchecked, we would have to increase our water consumption by about 10%. Water is like gold around here; we would need more irrigation, which would impact our profitability, never mind the issue of unnecessary consumption of this precious commodity.

Glyphosate is the key tool we have for controlling weeds. In a normal year, we spray by hand three times, directly targeting the weeds in between the trees when there’s no fruit on their branches.

How do I know weedkillers are safe?

It’s as simple as this. I wouldn’t want my daughters to eat a fruit that I didn’t trust one hundred per cent. So, when I eat one of my oranges, I know that I am eating something healthy. I can’t think of a single farmer who wants to make profit at the expense of the health of the final consumer, whether someone else, or his own family.

I am absolutely confident that glyphosate does no harm to anyone or anything except the weeds I spray it on. That is why, if one of my daughters wants to eat an orange, I would peel it for her, with all my love.

 

 

What would happen without glyphosate

If we didn’t have glyphosate, we would have two alternatives. One is to use pre-emergence herbicides, which I understand could be environmentally hazardous, and are more expensive. The other option would be to work the farms with machinery, tilling the soil regularly. However, that is not possible around here because typical plantations are on average about a hectare, which means there is little space for machines. Also, in most cases there are flood irrigation systems, which means we have many barriers – walls, canals etc. – that machinery can’t pass.

Given these issues, our farms operate on very tight yields. Some years you make money, and other years you lose money. It’s this simple: if we are forced to increase production costs, we could end up abandoning our plantations altogether.”