Glyphosate is a chemical that is used in weed management control in many off the shelf products. It is most commonly known as “Roundup” The global concerns over this chemical has seen that the World Health Organisation classify Glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”. France and the Netherlands have already banned the use of Glyphosate. Vietnam is banning the importation and there are strong restrictions in Canada and many south American countries. A list of countries where it is banned or action has been taken is here.
Weed Control in Lane Cove
Lane Cove Council currently uses the following weed control measures:
- Grass cutting and lawn edging;
- Hand weed removal;
- Mechanical weed removal;
- Herbicide spray – including Glyphosate; and
- Flame weeding.
Background to Glyphosate Review
At the July 2019 Lane Cove Council Meeting, Councillors Andrew Zbik, Daniel Strassberg and Francis Visssel’s moved a motion asking the Lane Cove Council to review the use of Glyphosate. ITC has been requesting LCC to investigate the use of Glyphosate since 2017 (read more here). Some local councils have banned its use or are undertaking a review into its use.
Lane Cove Council was to review:
- Any alternatives that have been considered to replace the use of chemicals containing glyphosate;
- A review of Lane Cove Council’s current public notification procedures before chemicals containing glyphosate are used;
- Advice to Lane Cove Council on alternative chemicals / practices that can be used to permanently replace the use of chemicals containing glyphosate; and
- Feedback from Fairfield City Council, Georges River Council and any other Council as deemed in relation to how they have phased out and stopped using chemicals that contain Glyphosate.
Lane Cove Council Glyphosate Review Report
At the August 2019 Lane Cove Council meeting a report was tabled in relation to Lane Cove Council’s use of Glyphosate and potential safety risks for the community and staff.
The report noted:
- The current assessment of Glyphosate by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) is that products containing glyphosate are safe to use according to the label instructions;
- Recent court cases in the United States have received a lot of media attention but are related to the improper mixing and application of Glyphosate. There is no evidence to suggest that the community is in any danger of being adversely affected by Glyphosate use in public spaces.
- Lane Cove Council actively tries to minimise the use of all chemicals including Glyphosate by using many alternative techniques for weed control. These alternate methods include manual weeding, mechanical weeding, flame weeding, increased grass cutting cycles and mulching. When using Glyphosate, Council staff follow all the best practice safety procedures.
- While APVMA approves the use of Glyphosate, it is appropriate for Council to continue to use it ensuring that best practice safety procedures are followed. Glyphosate is one of a number of weeding options used by Council and removing this option would compromise Council’s weed management.
- There have been no international court proceedings or evidence to suggest that the community is in any danger of being adversely affected by Glyphosate used in public spaces. All court proceedings and commentary regarding Glyphosate use, refer to its preparation for use and its application.
- The United Services Union (USU) which represents Council’s outdoor staff, have accepted the APVMAs guidance on this matter, allowing their members to use Glyphosate.
- Currently Council is following the guidance of the APVMA and uses a limited amount of Glyphosate for weed control.
- Lane Cove Council manages 156ha of open space which includes 90 parks and reserves plus the Lane Cove Plaza, five community shopping precincts and 140km of footpaths. All these areas required weed control. Without appropriate weed control measures these outdoor areas would be overrun by weeds. As such, a large proportion of Council’s open space maintenance works are dedicated to weed control.
- Council uses a number of methods for weed control, with the use of herbicides the least preferred option. Council will continue to search for alternative-chemical options to Glyphosate, ensuring that any alternative chemicals have the same level, or a lower level of toxicity as Glyphosate.
The report also included the following table which lists a number of international chemical regulators and their positions on the use of Glyphosate:
|Regulatory Authority||Position on Glyphosate|
|Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)||Safe to use according to the label instructions.|
|European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)||Not carcinogenic|
|European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)||Unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans|
|European Commission||Renewed the approval of glyphosate till 2022|
|Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR)||Unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans|
|New Zealand Environment Protection Agency (EPA)||Unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans|
|United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA)||Do not support a carcinogenic process for glyphosate|
|French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES)
|Withdrawn authorisation for the sale of products that contain the combination of Glyphosate and POEAs|
|Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI)||Planning to tighten the rules on the private use of pesticides in Sweden|
|Netherlands Government||Banned Glyphosate for non-commercial use|
|International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)||Probably carcinogenic to humans|
Lively Debate at Lane Cove Council Meeting
It was certainly a lively debate between Lane Cove Councillors on the use of Glyphosate.
Councillor Francis Vissell was very passionate about stopping its use. Councillor Bennison stated that if the correct protective clothing was worn then there was no problem with using Glyphosate. Councillor Andrew Zbik noted he is the only Lane Cove Councillor with young children and he was very keen to ban its use around play equipment (because children don’t wear protective gear when playing). Councillor Zbik also asked LCC to ensure their contractors apply with all safety procedures (as much of the spraying is done by contractors).
Lane Cove Councillors were told that an audit of Council’s herbicide use indicates that less than 100 litres of Glyphosate was used by Lane Cove Council over the past 18 months.
Lane Cove Council finally resolved to:
- Continue to use Glyphosate while it is registered for use in Australia by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) in accordance with directions on the label;
- Update the signage used for notifying the community when using herbicides by ensuring that signage is of a large enough size and located in prominent areas (see further details below);
- Continue to search for alternative chemical options to Glyphosate ensuring that any alternative chemicals have the same level, or a lower level of toxicity as Glyphosate;
- Continue to search for additional non-chemical alternatives for weed control to find a practical and cost-effective method for weed control and a follow up presentation be provided to Councillors at the annual Corporate Planning Weekend; and
- In response to community expectations, not use Glyphosate within 10 metres of unfenced children’s playgrounds or within fenced playgrounds.
Lane Cove Council Pesticide Notification
Last year, Lane Cove Council updated its Pesticide Notification Plan. The purpose of the notification plan is to the inform residents, when spraying is to take place, so they may take action to avoid contact with herbicides, if they wish.
The Pesticide Notification Plan states notification of herbicide spraying will only take place where quantities used are greater than those readily available at retail outlets to the general public for the control of pests/weeds for which they are registered. For example: small quantities (less than 20 litres of “ready-to-use” spray mix) of Glyphosate applied by a hand-held applicator, or by cut-and-paint or stem injection techniques will not be notified as the quantities used in these situations are the same as any home gardener would use.
Willoughby City Council (some Lane Cove North residents are part of Willoughby City Council) will not notify spraying where pesticides are used in small quantities (less than 10 litres) and readily available at retail outlets to the general public for the control of pests: i.e. 10 litres of “ready-to-use” spray mix) of Glyphosate applied by a hand-held applicator, or by cut-and-paint or stem injection techniques will not be notified as the quantities used in these situations are the same as any home gardener would use.
The Lane Cove Pesticides Notification Plan has some flaws. A small A4 paper sign is displayed.
Recently, In the Cove readers noted a foam on several playing fields and near playgrounds they did not know why the foam was there. One person only saw signage advising that spraying had taken place as they were leaving the playground. Another ITC reader noted foam at Bob Campbell Oval in Greenwich but did not see any signs indicating spraying had taken place. Lane Cove Council also notifies proposed spraying dates and location on their website – the Bob Campbell Oval was not included.
When ITC raised this issue with LCC they responded as follow:
“Council’s contractor has been doing some Bindi spraying and they have been putting signs up as per Council’s pesticide notification plan. The sign complies with Council requirements however Council would prefer signs be more prominent. Council is working with the contractor to improve signage”
It’s good to see Lane Cove Council admitting that on some occasions the signs were not conspicuous enough to be noticed by the community. Lane Cove Council has now revised this signage strategy and is in the process of developing more prominent A-frame based and larger signage strategy, that will not be more obvious to the community.
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