LifeGate’s documentary about the effects of glyphosate on the food we eat

The first investigation on the effects of glyphosate on health and the environment in Italy, directed by social and environmental photographer Massimo Colombo. Watch the exclusive video.

A photographer decided to dig into how, where and why the weed killer glyphosate is used in Italy. This is after he saw Ernesto Piovano’s photo feature, El Costo Humano de los Agrotoxicos (the Human Cost of Agrotoxins), which shows the health conditions of Argentinians who live and work in close contact with glyphosate. Piovano’s work was presented during the 2015 edition of the Ethical Photography Festival in Lodi, Italy.

Massimo Colombo, professional photographer from Lecco, Italy, who has been collaborating with Getty Images since 2010, realised an investigation into glyphosate (available on YouTube). It’s the first of its kind in Italy and is aimed at understanding the extent of the weed killer’s use. Why do some farmers and winemakers still use it while others decided not to? “I started my investigation in the province of Verona, which is characterised by an extensive use of weed killers,” said Colombo. “I then travelled to Tuscany, where a vast area of ‘biodistricts’ (where farmers come together and decide to cultivate adjacent fields following organic practices) is being created. Lastly, I went to Abruzzo, where I had the chance to talk with a doctor who has been studying environmental diseases for years”.


Il fotografo Massimo Colombo
Photographer Massimo Colombo


“I came into contact with people who propose alternatives to chemicals in farming. I took pictures of every person I met and interviewed them. The result is a video explaining what glyphosate is, what its negative effects on human health and the environment are, and why many farmers want it to be banned”.


The effects of glyphosate on human health and the environment

The debate on the use of glyphosate is evermore heated. It has even generated a disagreement between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, part of the World Health Organisation) and the European Food Security Authority (EFSA). The former has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to human health”. Following this, campaigners and political parties started their fight to get it banned. A battle reminiscent of the one – carried out by Rachel Carson, among others, with Silent Spring (1962) – against the pesticide DDT, which was banned in the 1970s.


Un trattore sparge diserbanti su un campo agricolo in provincia di Verona © Massimo Colombo
Spraying herbicides on a field in the province of Verona, Italy © Massimo Colombo

The alternatives to glyphosate

“If we eat food containing pesticides and herbicides every day – even in low doses – we will face toxic effects on our genes in the long term. From here the question of carcinogenicity emerges,” says Doctor Maurizio Proietti, President of the Association of Health Studies and Information (ASSIS).


“Agriculture no longer has the ability of storing and developing soil’s organic substances. This is mainly due to herbicide use”. Herbicides turn soil “into an inanimate thing,” says Doctor Giovanni Beghini, President of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE) in Verona, Italy. This is the very opposite of what happens in practices that respect nature, namely organic and biodynamic farming.


Vineyard in the province of Verona © Massimo Colombo

LifeGate is part of the Italian coalition against glyphosate, #StopGlifosato

Coalitions and campaigns aimed at stopping glyphosate are on the rise. LifeGate joined the Italian coalition #StopGlifosato: “We’ve been promoting sustainable farming for years, and this is a confirmation of our commitment. We want the European Commission to ban glyphosate,” said LifeGate CEO Enea Roveda.

The European Commission was set to make a decision on the issue on the 8th of March, when a new 15-year authorisation was expected. But pressures from the general public roused doubts among Brussels’ bureaucrats, which postponed the decision to June, when the current license expires. Meanwhile people, workers, communities and local entities are beginning to acting autonomously by favouring glyphosate-free economic and production systems. The health of people and the environment can wait no longer.

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