Campaigners win pledge to drop toxic weedkiller

January 24 2019

There was unanimous support in the council chamber on January 15, among all political parties, to phase out the use of the herbicide Glyphosate in Bristol.

 The chemical is used by council contractors once or twice a year to control weeds on highways and on hard surfaces in parks and on housing land. It is used because it is effective, sprayed at close range at concentrations considered safe. However, there have been concerns for many years about a possible link to cancer and the effect the chemical has on biodiversity, as it kills most things it touches.

 A petition organised by Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance was presented by Harriet Williams and Nick Mole asking ‘Marvin Rees: deliver your plan to ban Glyphosate in Bristol’.

Harriet Williams talked about the risks of using the chemical and of how it is still being sprayed near children and pets - something which she experienced last year in Fishponds. 

Redland councillor Martin Fodor spoke about the EU work, including that carried out by Green party MEP Molly Scott Cato and colleagues, who have pressed for the review of regulations to use independent science, not industry funded or written studies. The chemical’s licence will be reassessed within five years so the council needs to prepare for this anyway. He pointed out how there had already been a lot of scrutiny of the use of Glyphosate but never an effective trial of the alternatives. 

 The European Union’s Chemicals Agency – one of the world’s most stringent regulators – recently relicensed Glyphosate until 2022, when it plans a further review. The European Food Safety Authority has declared that it was ‘unlikely’ to pose a public health risk with ‘no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer in humans’, a view shared by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations:

 Labour agreed an altered motion with the Lib Dems, noting Mayor Marvin Rees’s recent commitment to phase out the use of Glyphosate. This motion, brought by Cotham councillor Anthony Negus, was approved unanimously by the council.

 A task force chaired by Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services, will be set up to reconsider the alternatives to the chemical.

 Councillor Negus said: “I’m delighted that my motion to Council on 15 January to phase out the council’s spraying of harmful pesticides was approved.  I’ve been fighting for this for over six years and this was a great New Year present.”