Fresh hope for ban on cancer-risk weedkillers

January 29 2019

CAMPAIGNERS trying to ban a toxic weed killer after it was sprayed close to schools in Fishponds have received fresh hope.

The city council has promised to work with them to find an alternative to a pesticide called glyphosate in an effort to phase it out across the city within two years.

Members of the Bristol Safe Pesticides Alliance were horrified to see workers spraying the pesticide, which has been linked to cancer,  near local schools including Begbrook Primary Academy and Little Hayes Nursery School, which declared itself a pesticide free zone in 2015, during Bristol's year as European Green Capital.

They launched a petition calling for an end to the use of harmful chemicals in Bristol’s public spaces which was signed by more than 3,700 people.

This triggered a debate at full council on January 15, at which Cabinet member Kye Dudd made the pledge to work with the campaigners. 

Their petition had accused Bristol mayor Marvin Rees of failing to deliver on an election promise of prohibiting glyphosate in Bristol, where it is used by the local authority on housing land, hard surfaces in parks and on highways, by 2021.

The meeting heard the council has trialled alternative pesticides but found none were effective and affordable.

Delivering the petition, organiser Harriet Williams said: "Glyphosate is linked to a number of serious health impacts.

"It is still being sprayed liberally and without warning around Bristol, including near school gates at dropping-off time.

"It is hard to square this with common sense. A fresh approach is needed to get the mayor’s promise delivered."

Green Party councillor Martin Fodor said: "It should not be used in sensitive areas near children. It should be phased out."

Labour councillor Fabian Breckels said the chemical was needed to tackle Japanese knotweed, which threatened areas like Troopers Hill nature reserve.

"Right now, glyphosate is probably the only effective agent to eliminate those invasive plants," he said.

"It is our policy to explore alternatives but we can only end its use completely when we have effective alternatives."

Cllr Dudd, cabinet member for energy, waste and regulatory services, said: "Glyphosate is very effective.

"It leaves little residue which can then be washed away. Glyphosate is licensed by the EU, so there are tough standards in place.

"At the concentrations and frequencies applied by the council, we consider it to be safe for the user and the general public.However, the council recognises that people have concerns about the use of this.

"In 2016, the council made a commitment to find an affordable alternative and there was a trial in Cotham ward.

"For whatever reason, it didn’t work. So we have not been able to identify an alternative that’s affordable and effective. But we’re happy to work with all the parties involved to potentially phase it out, as is demanded in the petition, by 2021.

"Science is moving on, so there are alternatives coming on board. There has been a trial in France and Germany of a type of acid that has been successful but has not got a UK licence yet. But that may change in future."

Cllr Dudd promised to meet campaigners in the next few weeks "to move this issue forward".