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Councillors to scrutinise council’s glyphosate use after EU advises to ‘minimise use in public spaces’

Committee members will look at the the local authority’s use of glyphosate based herbicides (commonly known in use in ‘Roundup’) in detail, after a request from a councillor was supported, despite one rural member voicing strong support for the chemical.

Cllr Ronnie Prince lodged a topic request form with the Homes and Environment Scrutiny Committee, to “consider the safety of glyphosate based herbicides by WCBC in light of international and national concerns expressed round their usage” and to “consider any future usage of such products on a “safety first” principle.”

Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David Bithell, fed back mentioning the EU Commission’s Appeal Committee that agreed the relicensing of the product, saying: “I am aware that an Appeal Committee considered the proposal of the European Committee to further approve the use of this substance on 27 November 2017.

“A qualified majority in favour of the proposal by the European Commission to renew the approval of glyphosate for a period of five years was reached by the Appeal Committee.”

Cllr Prince’s request form did counter that point by adding: “It should be noted that a number of EU countries supported a ban and French President Emmanuel Macron had ordered a ban on the use of glyphosate in France “as soon as alternatives are found, and within three years at the latest.”

Cllr Carrie Harper spoke to support the topic request, saying the EU vote had passed ‘by the skin of its teeth’ adding: “It is brave to conclude that all is well just because the licence has been renewed. There are serious concerns about the impact to human health and bio diversity.”

Cllr Rodney Skelland spoke of his personal experience as a farmer, “I have used glyphosate all my life, it is a very safe spray” adding he believed anti-genetically modified food campaigns against Monsanto could be making glyphosate the ‘next thing against them’.

In a slightly odd sentence Cllr Skelland said: “It is exceptionally safe. Well, no chemical is safe, but the alternatives are frightening. Glyphosate is approved by the Environment Agency, it is safe to use in waterwasys and everywhere, others are not safe for that. It is a very safe product.

Cllr Skelland referred to ‘grandfather rights’ regarding spraying, where in effect those who have done so for decades are allowed to continue without training as it was thought they knew enough practically to do so.

He added, “It is safe, I am still here and have used it all my life.”

Cllr Skellands ringing endorsement is at odds with action taken across the pond where earlier this year multiple lawsuits are being taken forward against Monsanto by farmers over alleged exposure to glyphosate and subsequent impacts to their lives.

Cllr Bithell spoke to reiterate comments made by a council officer earlier this year when the issue was raised, noting that it had been considered under health and safety. Cllr Bithell observed regardless of the tightness of the EU vote, it was passed and has been approved for use for five years.

Cllr Prince addressed the points raised, pointing out that UK academics had ‘serious concerns’ over the chemical, plus historic research suggesting a carcinogenic link from 2015.

On the EU approval Cllr Prince detailed how the initial plan was for 15 year EU approval, however when that could not be gained a 5 year approval was targeted. Cllr Prince told the meeting that five year approval was gained with the attachment of three conditions including one minimising use in public spaces.

That condition is detailed on the EU website, and reads “Minimise the use in public spaces, such as parks, public playgrounds and gardens”.

After further discussion Cllr Alun Jenkins pointed out that the debate was verging on scrutiny itself, so therefore it illustrated the interest and he would therefore support it being placed on a future committee agenda – and moved to get on with the business of the meeting itself.

All members of the committee presented voted for that to happen, aside from Cllr Skelland who said he was going to abstain, but at the vote opted to vote against.

We have spotted this press release from three days ago on the EU website that has a quick FAQ section, that includes:

What is now the status of glyphosate in the EU?
On 27 November 2017, EU Member States voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal for a 5-year renewal of the approval, which is adopted today by the Commission. This follows President Juncker’s initiative to discuss the matter several times at the College as a result of which the length of the renewal proposal was reduced from 15 to 5 years, in order to take account of the latest Resolution of the European Parliament and to get the support from as many Member States as possible. It is now up to Member States to re-assess all the glyphosate-based products available in their territories.

What happens with glyphosate-based products, like Roundup? Are they automatically re-authorised as well?
No. This is up to Member States. Member States are responsible for the authorisation and use on their territories of plant protection products (‘pesticides’) containing active substances.
Only the approval of active substances is decided at EU level. This division of responsibility is based on the principle of subsidiarity and reflects the differences in climatic, agronomic and environmental conditions in Member States.
Following a renewal of glyphosate, Member States must re-evaluate all existing authorised products containing this active substance – such as Roundup. If the authorisation holders request from national authorities to maintain the earlier authorisations, Member States may also decide to introduce restrictions or bans for some or all of them, where this is warranted on the basis of evidence related to the particular circumstances in their territories.

Top pic: Cllr Ronnie Prince earlier this year, inspecting areas of glyphosate use outside houses and by a drain.

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