London council bans contractor use of glyphosate in parks

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is the first council in London to halt the use of herbicide sprays in parks and open spaces and is pioneering trials of chemical-free weedkillers.

Ravenscourt Park - image: Flickr/ DncnH
Ravenscourt Park - image: Flickr/ DncnH

The scrapping of glyphosate-based weedkillers, which were used by council contractors, is art of Hammersmith and Fulham’s aim to "protect residents’ health and become the greenest local authority in the country".

The World Health Organisation recently branded a glyphosate-based weedkiller "probably carcinogenic to humans".

For the past six months, the borough has been exploring chemical-free alternatives, including the use of hot foam or hot steam, and will implement trials of these in the near future.

"While there is some debate over the health risks of glyphosate-based chemicals, there is no debate that at Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F), the health and well-being of our residents is our priority and we recognise the importance of a green agenda in better supporting that," said Councillor Wesley Harcourt, H&F cabinet member for Environment, Transport and Residents’ Services.

"We are one of the first councils in the UK to move away from glyphosates, and by taking this precautionary approach are leading the charge for a greener, healthier borough.

"It is vital that we find solutions that work in every part of the borough. This means looking for alternatives that protect the environment, do not put our residents in danger, but also allow us to carry on tackling the scourge of Japanese knotweed that can blight communities."

Campaign organisation, Pesticide Action Network director Keith Tyrell, said: "We warmly welcome H&F's decisive action in taking the decision to stop using these herbicides and hope to work closely with them on this project.

Previously, H&F’s contractors, Quadron, Pinnacle and Serco used various forms of glyphosate herbicides across the borough’s parks, roadsides and other public green spaces. The council has instructed them to stop using these herbicides.

Crop Protection Association chief executive officer Nick von Westenholz said: "Glyphosate is a safe, efficient and effective tool used by Council’s up and down the country to control weeds in public spaces and improve the condition and quality of parks, gardens and sports pitches.

"The public should rest assured that numerous assessments conducted by public authorities over the past 40 years have consistently concluded that responsible use of glyphosate does not pose a risk to human health or wildlife. No regulatory agency in the world has ever classified glyphosate as a human carcinogen.

"Hammersmith & Fulham Council seem to be under the impression that the WHO has "branded" glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen". In fact the WHO recently clarified it’s position at the UN’s Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues, stating that glyphosate was "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans".

"Halting the use of glyphosate is contrary to the science and will provide no benefit to human health, wildlife or the environment."

A Monsanto representative said: "Glyphosate has a 40-year history of safe, effective and economical weed control.  No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen.  The decision by this council to move away from glyphosate is based on politics, not science.  And the outcome is likely to be higher costs for less effective weed control paid by local citizens.  Further, the IARC classification in 2015 selectively interpreted data to classify glyphosate in Category 2A – the same category in which IARC places red meat.  Since the IARC classification was announced, the European Food Safety Authority, the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues and other regulators have again affirmed that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic. " 

The EC will vote on whether to extend authorisation for the use of glyphosate in the European Union on 23 June.

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