New move in pesticides battle

November 29 2018

CALLS for Bristol to ban a weedkiller at the centre of a cancer controversy will be debated by the city council.

More than 20 environment and community groups published an open letter to Mayor Marvin Rees, calling on him to set up a task force with other major landowners to phase out glyphosate from Bristol’s public spaces.

The chemical weedkiller, sold under the brand name Roundup, has been in use around the world for 40 years. But exposure to glyphosate has been linked to cancer: a US court awarded more than £200 million in damages this year to a school groundskeeper who sued manufacturer Monsanto after developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer says it is “probably carcinogenic”. Monsanto insists the product is safe, after undergoing hundreds of scientific studies, but a number of councils have stopped using it.

Mr Rees pledged in his 2016 election manifesto to stop using “harmful pesticides” and a petition calling on the council to stop using glyphosate has now been signed by more than 3,800 people.

The open letter, organised by the Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance (PSBA), comes after glyphosate was sprayed on verges outside schools in Fishponds, including Begbrook Primary Academy and Little Hayes Nursery School, as children arrived earlier this year – despite advice to minimise its use in public spaces, especially those used by children.

The council has previously insisted glyphosate is an approved, safe product and said there are “no current plans to use alternative methods”.

A year-long trial of vinegar as an alternative weedkiller found it was less effective and would cost three times more than using glyphosate, as it needed to be applied more often.

PSBA spokesperson Emma Rose said: “Marvin Rees promised action on pesticides in 2016, but the job is unfinished and progress has stalled. A task force could break the stalemate by getting other land managers to work alongside the council in phasing out toxic glyphosate in favour of safer alternatives. We know this is possible because other local authorities are already doing it.”

A council spokeswoman said: “As this petition has reached the required number of signatures, it can now be debated at a full council meeting.”

A date for the debate has yet to be announced but the next full council meeting is on January 15.