The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency has declared that glyphosate – the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up, the world’s most widely used weedkiller – a “probable carcinogen”. With the EU officially reassessing glyphosate at the moment, Avaaz has launched a big petition to “immediately suspend approval of glyphosate”.
Last year we wrote to Cllr Sally Gimson, the sustainability lead at Camden Council, asking them to review the Council’s use of glyphosate on Camden’s streets, parks and estates and consider a proven alternative, a technique called weed steaming which is being used already in Southwark and Kensington & Chelsea. The letter is reproduced below.
We have not yet heard back from the Council and are following up on it now.
Letter to Sally Gimson on glyphosate
27th November 2014
Cllr Sally Gimson
Camden Town Hall
London WC1H 9JE
Re: Glyphosate spraying on Camden’s streets, parks and estates
We are writing from Transition Kentish Town, a community group working to make Kentish Town less dependent on fossil fuels, and a happier, greener and more neighbourly place to live.
We’d like to ask you to re-visit the issue of glyphosate spraying on Camden’s streets, parks and estates, and we can suggest an alternative method of controlling weeds.
There is a growing amount of research that indicates glyphosate is a toxic substance, which persists in the soil, in water and in plants, doing damage for many years.
The bioaccumulative effects of glyphosate have been deliberately downplayed by the herbicide industry. Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from city-dwelling volunteers in 18 countries across Europe – including the UK – and found that 44% of samples contained glyphosate. This was the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies.
Meanwhile, the weeds that develop glyphosate resistance grow tall and strong. So far, 23 species of new glyphosate-resistant weeds have been recorded, and counting.
We have been told, and have noticed that the street cleaners still do some hand weeding. We would strongly suggest they should be spared the toxic exposure to the glyphosate chemical, and given a little extra time for the hand weeding, or weed steaming (see below). If Camden residents knew of the toxic nature of what is sprayed on their streets, they would certainly tolerate the odd weed.
We have been told that glyphosate has been used “for years” in Camden’s parks and estates. Given the fact that glyphosate bioaccumulates in soil and water, it seems irresponsible to use it in public parks. As for spraying on estates, this is effectively spraying toxic substances in people’s gardens, since that is how estate land is often used. Has anyone spoken to the residents about this? We doubt it.
So here is our proposed alternative: a technique called weed steaming, based on an old method of killing weeds with simple hot water. A London-based company called Weedingtech offers a weed steaming product called Foamstream, which uses no harmful chemicals and is already being used by water companies and councils. In London, the boroughs of Southwark and Kensington & Chelsea are using Foamstream in parks using the contractor Quadron Services.
We ask you to look at this simple alternative and consider putting an end to the use of a toxic substance on Camden’s streets, parks and estates. It is well worth sitting down for a talk with Weedingtech or Quadron Services. We know that budgets are very tight, but there are solutions that can work for Camden financially without sacrificing residents’ health and our environment.
Transition Kentish Town Core Group