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Petition debate introduction: Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance

January 16, 2019

I’m delighted to be here today to present our petition for a city-wide ban on the use of glyphosate weed killers like RoundUp, and discuss how we can action the Mayor’s manifesto commitment to stop using harmful pesticides.

I’m here to represent the PSBA, a network that’s been highlighting the risks – to health and to wildlife – of spraying glyphosate in Bristol’s streets, housing and green spaces.

I think risk is the right way to frame this – rather safe than sorry you could say. Are we certain that glyphosate causes cancer, or that its harmful to bees? Probably yes or probably no – it depends which science you read. What nobody is saying – other than some of the companies who make it– is that glyphosate is a risk-free, no regrets solution to weed control.

Therefore the right course of action is to swap in alternatives when and where we can. Logically that has to start in densely populated urban centres, and we are seeing consensus harden that yes glyphosate is a public health risk that cities need to control.

We see this in the EU’s advice to minimise use of glyphosate in public spaces esp around children. We see it as France and Germany withdraw it altogether. We see it as retailers stop selling these weed killers to the public. And we see it here in Bristol, as hundreds of households pledge their own gardens as pesticide free zones. Why then should they be exposed to glyphosate on the streets outside?

We believe the Mayor and Councillors are sincere in your desire to see this through for Bristol. However as realists we must recognise that progress has stalled. Glyphosate is still being sprayed, liberally and without warning, including at school gates at drop off time – as happened to me and my 4 yr old son last summer in Fishponds.

It hard to square this with the EU’s minimise use guidance or with common sense. It tells us a fresh approach is needed to get the Mayor’s pledge delivered. This is why we propose the council joins with other land managers – universities, hospital trusts, retail parks – in a task force whose goal is to transition the whole city to safer weed control. We believe this is achievable in 2-3 yrs. Such a task force is fair – it recognises that maintaining public spaces is a shared responsibility and not the Council’s alone, and it is practical in opening the possibility for land managers to share learning and costs.

Councillors have opportunity to vote for such a task force in the silver motion later on in this meeting. We hope we and the thousands of citizens who signed this petition can count on your support.

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