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Open letter to Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees: Please phase out the use of glyphosate in public spaces 

**This letter remains open for signatures, having been endorsed by 22 organisations so far – if your organisation would like to sign it, please let us know (see email details, below) ** 

As members and supporters of the Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance, we write to express our concern about the ongoing use of glyphosate as a means of weed control in Bristol’s public spaces.

You will no doubt be aware of the recent spate of public health scandals around glyphosate, including a landmark US court ruling in August, in which chemical company Monsanto was fined $289m after its weed killers were found to have contributed “substantially” to the terminal cancer of a school groundsman.

Serious questions are being raised about the safety of spraying glyphosate and other pesticides in densely populated urban areas. Glyphosate is labelled as a ‘probable carcinogen’ by an agency of the World Health Organisation, and numerous studies document its harmful impacts on humans and wildlife.

Accordingly, glyphosate is under review by the European Union, and is being withdrawn by a number of cities. Technically, glyphosate remains legal, but many land managers are taking the longer view – concluding their best option is to phase out this controversial substance starting now. Public opinion supports this, with 3,800+ people petitioning for a city-wide ban in Bristol so far.

While we welcomed Labour Bristol’s 2016 manifesto commitment to ‘stop using harmful pesticides’, we are concerned that this has not been put into practice.

What’s more, glyphosate is being applied in a manner that contradicts best practice guidance from the EU and UK authorities, as well as the Council’s stated policy to “always use the minimum amount possible, applied in a safe way”. This summer, parents witnessed glyphosate being sprayed with no warning outside schools just as children arrived, and in a non-discriminate manner along pavement edges. This is unacceptable.

To progress the manifesto goal, we ask you to set up a Pesticide-Free Bristol Task Force, and recruit other major land managers to participate in this alongside the Council. Recognising that transition to alternative weed control will be more easily achieved by stakeholders working together to share learning and potentially costs, the Task Force would plan towards a city-wide phase out of glyphosate and other synthetic pesticides by 2020-2021. With this letter, we invite you to show leadership in this matter, and offer to support you in any way we can.

We recognise that pesticide-free policies cannot be adopted overnight and that cost implications need to be carefully scrutinised. But the experience of other cities shows it is possible to control weeds without harmful chemicals and within budget. As Mayor of Bristol, we call on you to lead the Council to adopt a pesticide safety policy worthy of our city’s reputation for sustainability.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss the Task Force further, or discuss any other policies for delivering a pesticide-free Bristol that you may have in mind. We look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

The Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance (contacts: Harriet Williams and Emma Rose –, )

Undersigned by:

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