Ladywell Live first heard about glyphosate weedkillers being used in Lewisham parks a few months ago.
Roundup, the best known and most widely used glyphosate herbicide has been making headlines as a result of recent US court cases which resulted in the manufacturer, Bayer/Monsanto, paying out millions of dollars in damages to users of the chemical after they developed cancer.
Some Lewisham residents concerned about the use of glyphosate weedkiller in public spaces have launched a petition about this.
Ladywell Live decided to find out more. This is what we have discovered so far. Please let us know what you think about the use of this weedkiller and you can also add your comment in our forum.
Lewisham Council is testing a non-herbicide method of weed control in for its green spaces, pavements and paths as local authorities across the country re-examine their use of glyphosate weedkillers.
Pressure has been mounting for the phasing out of glyphosate weedkillers after US courts ordered the manufacturer of the best-selling brand Roundup to pay millions of dollars in damages to users after they developed cancer.
Croydon Council has announced it will not be using glyphosate in parks. Other London boroughs such as Hammersmith & Fulham and Hackney, have curtailed its use in green spaces. Dozens of councils up and down the country including Richmond in London and Trafford in Manchester are now testing alternatives.
Government advice describes glyphosate as an important chemical for use in agriculture and transport and is approved for use in the UK until 2022, though the evidence is under review.
Lewisham says it has had a demonstration of an eco-friendly hot foam weed killer called Foamstream and “is investigating this further to establish if it will be useful to deploy as part of the overall policy.”
The council adds: “We will also continue to use mulching and other methods of weed control and approved herbicides where necessary.”
Foamstream, which uses heat to kill weeds, is biodegradable, and safe to use near watercourses and in children’s playgrounds.
Glendale, which manages Lewisham parks, have been contacted for comment.
But Ladywell Live understands from the Lewisham Green Spaces Forum, which represents the friends and users of Lewisham parks, that Glendale seeks to limit glyphosate weedkiller use to once or twice a year in selected areas.
Anne Slater of the forum says it has also asked “that times for spraying are given careful consideration to avoid coming in contact with the public.”
She says Glendale have undertaken to put up signs to let people know when an area is being sprayed.’
The use of herbicides is on the agenda for the next meeting between Lewisham Green Spaces Forum and the council’s ‘Green Scene’ officers and Cllr Sophie McGeevor, Lewisham Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste and Recycling, Parks and Green Spaces, in September.
Ladywell Live understands that councillors are keen to address this important issue, though the council is also dealing with staff shortages as a result of massive cuts to their budget.
Anne says Glendale and the Council are concerned they will find it difficult to control weeds (on path areas in particular) without chemical weedkillers because staff numbers have been so sharply reduced.
New equipment is also very expensive and not as portable as the present weedkiller spray, she adds, “There is no easy answer at the moment.”
Bayer, the pharmaceutical company which bought Roundup maker Monsanto last year, has lost three US trials involving Roundup damages, with juries in California granting multimillion-dollar awards.
Bayer is appealing against the court decisions. It is facing Roundup cancer lawsuits by more than 13,400 people in the US.
Bayer says it continues to believe that the verdicts and damage awards “conflict with the extensive body of reliable science and conclusions of leading health regulators worldwide that confirms glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.”
However, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”. In Europe, its use has so far been banned in Austria, and limited in Belgium and the Netherlands. France and Italy have banned its use in public green spaces.
Monsanto’s weedkiller patent expired in 2000 and glyphosate is now produced by various companies and under different names.