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Civil society groups ask Mayor Marvin Rees to set up a Pesticide Free Task Force

November 16, 2018

Over 20 environment and community groups have today published an open letter to Mayor Marvin Rees, asking him to set up a task force between the Council and other land managers in order to banish toxic glyphosate from Bristol’s public spaces.

Glyphosate, sold as Roundup, is a popular weed killer but increasingly controversial since being linked to cancer. A number of local authorities are withdrawing it from streets, housing estates and parks, but not Bristol – despite 2016 manifesto pledges by Rees and Bristol Labour to ‘stop using harmful pesticides’[1].

The letter comes as public opinion hardens against the Council’s use of glyphosate. A petition calling on Marvin Rees to deliver his promise to phase it out in Bristol has been signed by 3,800+ people so far[2]. And hundreds of households have signed up their gardens as ‘Pesticide Free Zones’ online [3].

The letter, organised by the Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance, describes recent spray events in Bristol, which appear to flout guidance on glyphosate safety. Official advice is to minimise use in public spaces, especially those used by children[4]. But in East Bristol, glyphosate was sprayed outside schools just as children arrived, a practice described as “unacceptable” by letter signatories. Responding to angry parents via the local press, Bristol City Council insisted glyphosate is “safe” and said there are “no current plans” to seek alternatives[5].

However, the chemical’s safety is increasingly contested, after a series of scandals that have rocked RoundUp’s parent company Monsanto[6] and led the GMB Union to back a glyphosate ban to protect workers carrying out weed control for local authorities[7].

Signatories to the letter ask Rees to set up a Pesticide-Free Bristol Task Force in order to progress his election promise. The Task Force would bring the Council together with other major land managers in order to take stock of the city’s weed control needs, and figure out how to meet these by using alternatives to glyphosate[8].

Emma Rose, of the PSBA, 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.”

Sam Packer, of the Soil Association, a signatory to the letter, said: “Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide ever, and available evidence suggests that it is a ‘probable carcinogen’. Pesticides are not subject to the rigorous checks that our medicines are, yet they pass through our bodies and environments in abundance. Research highlights the problem with relying on chemical pesticides is that the long term environmental and health impacts can be missed in safety regulatory approval systems, and the research playing field is far from balanced on pesticides, where industry studies are given greater recognition than scientific peer-reviewed open literature. We support a ban on the use of glyphosate in public spaces.”

ENDS

The Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance was set up by local environment, food and community groups and parents concerned by the use of hazardous pesticides in Bristol’s parks, pavements and other public spaces.

The Alliance calls on the Council to:

●   Adopt a target date for phasing out the routine use of glyphosate, city-wide

●   Undertake a full appraisal of least- or no-harm alternatives to glyphosate and other pesticides

●   Publish full annual data on pesticide use by the Council and its contractors

●   Provide clear public notices, in advance, giving warning of pesticide treatments to take place

The letter has been signed by the following organisations so far:

Avon Organic Group

Bee the Change

Bristol Food Network

Blaise Community Garden

Easton Community Garden

Fishponds Community Orchard

Friends of the Avon New Cut

Friends of Brandon Hill

Hartcliffe Health & Environment Action Group

Horfield Organic Community Orchard

Hotwells & Cliftonwood Community Association

Incredible Edible Bristol

Metford Road Community Orchard

Patchwork Community Gardening Group

Pesticide Action Network UK

Sims Hill Shared Harvest

Soil Association

St George Park Community Garden

Sustainable Redland

The Community Farm

The Golden Hill Community Garden

Woodcroft Community Orchard

For more information please contact the Alliance spokespeople:

Harriet Williams, harrietwork@gmail.com, 07904 296 431

Emma Rose, emma.m.rose88@gmail.com, 07917 799 203

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