Agenda item

Motion Received under Standing Order No. 8 (Agenda item 8)

To consider the following Motion:

 

Council notes:

The use of pesticides such as glyphosate in the UK has increased by 60% in real terms since 1990. Italy and Portugal have both banned the use of glyphosate and France is working towards this.

 

Council believes:

There is compelling evidence that glyphosate and a wide range of other herbicides and pesticides may be harmful to human health.

The use of pesticides and weed killers reduces biodiversity, impacting negatively on insects, birds and bees, in a time when the world is losing 2.5% of its insect population per-year.

Harmful weed killer residues can creep into the food chain.

Pets and children should not be playing in parks, in our streets or any area treated with such chemicals.

 

Council recommends that cabinet resolves to:

Phase out the use of all pesticides and weed killers on council land by Council employees or contractors working on its behalf.

Trial pesticide-free alternatives during this period. Particularly those adopted by the likes of Hammersmith and Fulham and Lewes Councils who use biodegradable foam or hot steam treatments on weeds.

Grant an exception to the above ban regarding the control of Japanese knotweed, or other invasive species, where there are currently no effective mechanical techniques available. However, in this case chemicals such as glyphosate will only be stem-injected, rather than sprayed, to reduce its spread in the environment.

Grant an exception on sprays only in relation to Giant Hogweed where it’s not safe to be dug out or safely removed by other means and then cordon off the surrounding area.

Minutes:

This Motion was proposed and seconded by Councillor Dowling and Councillor Atterwill.

Councillor Dowling added the following information to the Motion that had been submitted.

The use of herbicides such as glyphosate in the UK had increased by 60% in real terms since 1990. Glyphosate was toxic to all plants unless they were genetically modified to resist it. It was the active ingredient in many herbicides and in weedkiller it was combined with other chemicals that altered the toxicity of the final product making it up to 150 times more toxic. 

Recent research had shown that these other chemicals included arsenic, lead, cobalt and nickel and a recent study had exclusively focused on short term high dose animal trials, but real-life exposure occurred over the long term.  Independent research had found that glyphosate was not only carcinogenic, but it also affected the body’s endocrine system and interfered with the enzymes in the human gut.

Recent research showed that glyphosate formulations destroyed the micro- organisms in healthy soil and affected earthworms. This herbicide was the most widely and heavily used agrichemical worldwide, in agriculture, parks and amenities as well as in gardens.

If weedkiller was used on grass people could be exposed to glyphosate by breathing it in or touching it, and if exposed people could experience irritation and many other health problems including, if swallowed, nausea and vomiting.

People could also be exposed to glyphosate in food.  It reached the food chain in raw food before being processed.  A recent World Health Organisation report highlighted that 43 out of 45 oat-based products tested contained glyphosate including breakfast cereals and snack bars.

Glyphosate had been banned in organic farming, but cross contamination could occur from neighbouring fields.  It poisoned the soil and reduced the biodiversity impacting on insects, birds and bees at a time when the world was losing a great deal of its insect population every year.

The license for glyphosate usage in the EU had recently been under discussion and the agrichemical industry had requested a 15-year renewal but concerned environmental groups wanted it banned and a compromise was reached for 5 years only.  A recommendation was also added minimising its use in parks and public places. 

Austria had been the first EU country to ban glyphosate.  In France glyphosate would be used until 2023 and in Germany until 2024.  It had also been banned in some US states and parts of Australia.

The Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee had also restricted the use of glyphosate and was considering a ban.  As a responsible Council, Breckland Council needed to follow other authorities and commit to the phasing out of these toxic pesticides and herbicides and to use a more environmentally friendly approach to weed control, such as hot steam treatment.

An exception to the ban should be given in some cases but such chemicals should be stem injected rather than sprayed.

This Council owed a duty of care to its residents.  Children and pets should not be playing on green areas where these chemicals were used.  The earth was what everyone had in common, and Breckland Council needed to take action for the environment and for the people in its community, for the planet and for the future.

Just as a Point of Order, the Chairman felt that it would have been better just to have a proposal.  All Members had seen the Motion included in the Council papers and the Leader was asked if he had a response to both the proposal and what had just been heard.

The seconder, Councillor Atterwill said that he had been very happy to second this Motion, for him, the key phrase in here was to ask Cabinet to phase out the use of these chemicals and to come up with a plan.  As a district there was a need to have a word with the waste contractor about the liberal application of weed killer.  He then referred to his recent email that he had sent to all Members where photographs had been clearly demonstrated the damage this weedkiller had done to the verges in his parish. He believed as a Council it did some very good work with its posters and signs and extracts in the press about protecting the wildlife and bees etc but it did not sit well with him that the Council was doing this on one hand and then secondly spreading so much weed killer in the district.

He then repeated his request that Cabinet phased out the use of these pesticides and herbicides in the district and come up with a plan.

Councillor Suggitt, the Executive Member for Planning, Leisure & Contracts was disappointed that the Members concerned had not engaged with the Portfolio Holders before submitting this Motion.  If they had, they would have realised that what was being recommended was already in place.  She then made the following observations. 

The approach to weed treatment taken by Breckland Council was consistent with most other authorities.  The weed killing products were also used elsewhere and all the chemicals that were used locally had been through a rigorous standard’s process and had been approved by DEFRA. She acknowledged that the recent events that had been mentioned that had led to this Motion being brought to this Council meeting was deemed acceptable and was aware that some weed spraying had been quite excessive and had not been to the Council standards and not adherent to the Serco contract.  This issue had been raised with the Contractor. 

Many of the recommendations within the Motion were already in place and most importantly the contract already stated that Serco should use the least amount of chemicals for weed treatments and Officers had been instructed to ensure that this was adhered to by the contractor in future.

As part of the Council’s wider commitment on sustainability it was already committed to reducing the overall use of chemicals for weed spraying and Officers had already been instructed to look at alternative products and approaches and this work had been commended by Serco. These findings would be reported back to Members in due course. 

Councillor Suggitt did not feel the need to support this Motion as measures were already in place, but she acknowledged Members concerns.

Councillor Brindle had not been able to hear all of what was being said; however, he supported the Motion as Breckland had made itself a ‘green’ Council and should move forward in this direction accordingly.

Members were then asked to vote on the Motion, and it was:

RESOLVED that the Motion was not supported.