‘This is a non -party political issue’: ban on weed killer glyphosate | Pesticides

Yellow grass and unnatural bare ground around public trees and paths have been more visible in the past, as the indiscriminate use of the controversial weed killer glyphosate has been eliminated by councils. But the change in the look of the public kingdom is not without controversy, with some complaining so -called weeds are making urban spaces unsightly.

Often used in farming, non-agricultural glyphosate use extends to parks and green spaces, pavements and playgrounds, hospitals and shopping centers. Since the WHO declared it a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015, after research found “strong” evidence for its toxicity, at least 70-80 UK councils have turned to chemical-free options or simply let that plants grow, from Bath & North East Council in Somerset, to Highland Council in Scotland.

Nick Mole, from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), which campaigns against glyphosate, told the Guardian over the past few years that an increasing number of councils, “from parish to county”, are implementing small trials until on wholesale prohibitions.

“More and more over the last two years, we have had councils come directly to us to say‘ this is something we want to do; how can we do it? ‘”, Mole said.

Biodiversity crisis

Recent research has revealed that glyphosate is seriously harmful to bee health, while another report claims that EU regulators have removed evidence linking the herbicide to animal tumors.

“I think there has been growth in the public interest and of course we’ve had ever -increasing news of the biodiversity crisis,” he said. “I think councils see this as something their voters want – and it’s councils across the political spectrum, as well – it’s a very nonpartisan political issue.”

However, PAN admitted some councils were eventually reversing measures, worrying about the “clean and tidy brigade”.

Brighton and Hove became glyphosate-free in 2018 under the former Labor administration with united cross-party support. However, local Conservative councilors have since started appearing in local newspapers complaining about the rewinding being over.

Green Brighton and Hove councilor, Jamie Lloyd, said it’s not about leaving weeds everywhere, but choosing to remove them. “It’s true that large weeds growing in the middle of pavements are undesirable,” he said. “So all we have to do is remove those weeds manually”

And Lloyd said the comments he heard as the pavement itself were removed indicate it was “more popular than the sensationalist headlines suggest”.

“I agree that you don’t want to be impassable on pavements for people with mobility issues. Honestly, the biggest problem for people with mobility issues is people who park their cars on the pavement, which [a] large and heavy [issue] in Brighton. ”

As far as the glyphosate ban goes, Lloyd said “the benefits are already tangible”, with anecdotally more swifts, swallows and bats seen locally, and a hedgehog seen in Hove.

He added: “We are in a biodiversity emergency. So many insects have disappeared from us in the last 20 years – – I read that [about] dropped by 60%. It’s surprising and extremely disturbing – it’s the canary in mine. We need to throw everything we can into it, and the first thing we can do is stop poisoning them. ”

Protests

Jon Burke is a Hackney councilor responsible for the east London borough who began phasing out glyphosate in 2018, after children protested against its use outside town hall. A borough-wide ban began in 2020.

Burke said: “The main threat posed by glyphosate is the fact that we are removing plants from the public realm in the midst of an event of widespread extinction.

“Most of the plants that grow in the public field are not weeds, but a mixture of wildflowers and other things. Some of these plants are the only food source for particular species of insects. What I want to do is change the perception in Hackney, and potentially more broadly in the UK, of what a neat public kingdom is.We have grown up with this reaction that any kind of plant in the public kingdom is looks messy and untidy-however, we have at once a high tolerance in the UK for McDonald’s wraps in gutters. “

Councils have tried different methods when it comes to glyphosate replacement. Bath and North East Somerset stopped using the weedkiller in July last year in favor of manual or machine weeding. A £ 950k Clean and Green campaign has been introduced with a dedicated weeding team, while volunteers can also borrow hoe, brush and shovel. Councilor David Wood said it had a “positive response and support from residents”.

Other councils have tried alternative herbicides. In April, PAN revealed that councils in London were using a “toxic cocktail” of 22 potentially harmful herbicides, including seven carcinogens and nine contaminating groundwater.

Mole said that while “the use of glyphosate dwarfs the use of almost all other weed killers: it is cheap, it works, and it is in many products”, replacing one chemical with another does not the answer.

He said it was about making the best technique for each area, from hoeing, raking and manual weeding, to hot foam, which combines hot water with a biodegradable insulating foam to kill plant material. , or even leave the plants to grow.

Burke thinks national legislation is needed to strengthen councils ’efforts. “Local authorities should not just decide, in the midst of a widespread event of extinction, whether or not they are playing into whether British crops can be pollinated or whether we are maintaining insect populations.

“The ways in which local authorities want to do that may vary, but I don’t think that should be optional whether you’re thoroughly cleaning up the public field or not.”