Glyphosate: A Campaigning issue for Liberal Democrats?

27 Nov 2023

Glyphosate: A Campaigning issue for Liberal Democrats?


Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup, a weed killer that is used extensively by local authorities in the UK.

This brief commentary looks at the controversy surrounding the use of glyphosate and the alternatives.
In brief: it is likely to be harmful; it is banned in several countries; there are alternative approaches worth exploring; and several UK councils are already using less harmful techniques.


Currently the seriousness of the harm is disputed.
For example, recent EU research was not conclusive:
https://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/2023-07/glyphosate_factsheet.pdf


Indeed it was just announced that the EU could not reach consensus and as a
result will permit the use of glyphosate for another 10 years.
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_23_5792


But the scientific research is clear that the dangers are real:
Gyphosate can be dangerous to humans.
www.washington.edu/news/2019/02/13/uw-study-exposure-to-
chemical-in-roundup-increases-risk-for-cancer/


Glyphosate can adversely impact biodiversity.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-020-1134-5


and :
https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/press_releases/foee_5_environmental_impacts_glyphosate.pdf


and:
https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/epa-finds-glyphosate-likely-injure-or-kill-93-endangered-species-2020-11-25/


Over 30 countries including France, Denmark, Italy have banned or limited its use:
https://biodx.co/28-countries-ban-the-use-of-glyphosate-key-ingredient-in-roundup/


The alternatives appear to be:


1. Reduced use. This the approach being taken by Kingston.
https://www.kingston.gov.uk/news/article/368/council-cuts-herbicide-use-by-almost-80-to-help-protect-kingston-s-biodiversity


2. Strimming and intense street sweeping and cleaning, especially in spring to remove all detritus that the weeds grow in.

3. Volunteer and professional hand pulling - costly in manpower and has H&S issues both for closing off areas and intensive physical impact on operatives.


4. Foamstream. Foamstream | Industrial Herbicide-Free Weed and Moss Control (weedingtech.com) . Several councils are experimenting with it - for example Powes . :-

See this question to  Powys County Council by Councillor Glyn Preston :
https://powys.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=867&MID=7620#AI33031
 


Other methods are sometimes mentioned such as the use of boiling water, vinegar, flame weeding, citrus oil and salt. But as yet no one solution has emerged as optimal.


Several councils have in the past instituted bans on glyphosate. List is here.
https://www.pan-uk.org/pesticide-free-towns-success-stories/#:~:text=Glastonbury

,
Somerset – June 2015 –,UK council to do so.
There is a lot of helpful information available to councils
https://www.pan-uk.org/information-for-local-authorities/


So while the controversy rages as to the seriousness of the impact of Glyphosate
there seems no doubt that it can be harmful. We should not be shy in saying so. In
Westmorland and Furness we are actively looking at alternatives.


Giles Archibald


LD Cabinet member for Climate and Biodiversity. Westmorland and Furness
email: giles.archibald@westmorlandandfurness.gov.uk

November 2023.

Empty Glyphosate (Herbolex) container discarded in Corfu olive grove from wikimedia
Empty Glyphosate (Herbolex) container discarded in Corfu olive grove