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When we talk about glyphosate , we think of Monsanto , now absorbed by Bayer , and we consider the agronomic and environmental aspects of the use of this total chemical herbicide, spearhead of the system of contemporary industrialized agriculture.

An interesting article by KJ McElrath has the advantage of highlighting all the links in the production chain that make glyphosate one of the products in which the complexity of the problems that the modern agro-industrial model raises for our future is best highlighted.

In the article, McElrath explains that glyphosate is chemically synthesized using phosphorus in particular, and that this must however be extracted from mines that, in the 1950s, Monsanto had opened in southeast Idaho , now exhausted, so today Bayer is desperate for other mining sources to feed his production process.

For this reason, he requested in May the competent authority to open a new phosphorus mine near Caldwell Canyon , a town in Idaho located about 40 miles east of Pocatello. The fears of the local inhabitants are linked to the fact that the prescribed evaluation by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not take into account all the environmental impact factors that the new phosphorus extraction would have in the area.

In fact, there are already four active mines and another four are planned; many areas are already the subject of intervention by the USA Superfund program for the recovery and decontamination of soils; 17000 acres (over 6 thousand hectares) of public land and land assigned to the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Nation are already affected by the phosphorus mining activities. Bayer would add another 1500 acres to this vast area of mining exploitation.

"In addition to disturbing the sensitive biome of the region - the scholar writes, the extraction and processing operation produces selenium , which at high concentrations can have a devastating effect on human and animal life. Selenium has contaminated local water sources; in recent years, at least 600 deaths among animals (mainly cattle) have been attributed to the toxicity of selenium.
Despite the decontamination efforts, a verification by the EPA [ Environment Protection Agency , US state agency] has ascertained that the selenium contamination has spread and that the reclamation of underground water sources "will not be achieved in the foreseeable future". Furthermore, there are no regulations that prevent the use of selenium in current treatment facilities ".

A situation is therefore determined in which the private profit of a company threatens a public environmental patrimony, with effects that can be harmful at an unpredictable level and for a period of time, and that moreover affect collective rights , such as those of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, whose reserves border the area, and whose hunting and gathering activities - guaranteed by the Treaty of Fort Bridger of 1868 - have already been compromised by mining and local grazing of cattle.

The statements by Bayer are therefore very little, aware of the gradual obfuscation of their image as a lifescience company. It ensures that its new mine will be "the most advanced from an environmental point of view" among those existing today and that it intends "to bring the main environmental systems that were present before extraction holistically to full functionality". But there are currently no laws in the US that require any environmental restoration by those who have caused damage.

Remaining therefore open the environmental question, we have here a clear proof of how the issue of the protection of irreplaceable collective resources (water, air, soil) is increasingly topical before the search for profit of large private companies.

A question, we could say, of social ecology , which cannot wait for answers for much longer.