Local Councils Respond to Glyphosate Concerns
Every once in a while we discover frightening health risks associated with products that are ingrained in our daily lives. Asbestos, for example, is still quite literally coming out of the woodwork and you only need to watch one episode of Mad Men to see blissfully unaware pregnant women puffing on durries in the ‘50s. Now it seems that glyphosate-based weedkillers can give us cancer too.
US lawsuits came in thick and fast after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled in 2015 that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans. Earlier this year, a US couple claiming their non-Hodgkin lymphoma was a result of using Roundup weedkiller won a landmark case. Bayer, the makers of Roundup who rather unfortunately bought the brand from Monsanto last year, were ordered to pay A$2.9 billion.
With massive payouts making headlines around the world, everyone is suddenly soiling their undies over exposure to glyphosate. But what does this mean for us? Have we been exposed to it? And what are our local councils doing about it?
You’ll be pleased to know that Randwick was quick out of the gates with a response. Mayor Kathy Neilson announced in June that Council was phasing out Roundup and would begin trialling organic alternatives. Slasher Weedkiller, which is made from naturally occurring acids found in plant oils, will be used across parks, open spaces, garden beds and footpaths. Other alternative herbicides will be used on urban bushland and coastal walkways and non-glyphosate-based selective weedkillers will be used in parks and sports fields to control weeds like clover and bindii.
“This is a progressive and responsible move to trial alternative products,” Randwick Mayor Kathy Neilson told The Beast.
“Some members of the community are concerned about the use of glyphosate and recent court decisions overseas. We’re proactively responding to that concern through this trial.”
A spokesperson for Woollahra Council told The Beast that, as per their current Pesticide Use Notification Plan, “Chemical usage is a final option”.
“Council follows an integrated approach to weed control. We try to prevent weeds wherever possible via mulching, plant spacing and treating weeds before they seed. We use small quantities of glyphosate for spot spraying weeds in garden beds, footpaths and for treating noxious weeds across the Woollahra LGA.”
All products used are in compliance with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which is the national regulator for agricultural chemicals.
“Council staff have appropriate training in the use of glyphosate and follow the recommendations of the regulator, including dilution rates for spraying, in its usage.”
“We are reviewing our practices and considering any new scientific information associated with the safety and effectiveness of glyphosate, and a report will be prepared for Council.”
Meanwhile, following a mayoral motion to minimise or eliminate the use of herbicides, Waverley Council engaged an independent expert to review current policies and procedures.
“The review will look at all options for weed management, including reduced or nil use of herbicides where possible,” said General Manager Ross McLeod.
Waverley Council’s current strategy does occasionally use Roundup or glyphosate in adherence to the Pesticide Use and Notification Plan adopted by Council in 2016.
“Our parks maintenance crews are trained in the use of all materials and/or equipment used to maintain our reserves and public places. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority states that glyphosate can be used safely if the directions on the label are followed,” he said.
Waverley Council hopes to discuss the findings of the independent review some time this month. We’ll keep you posted.