Call to council to stop spraying chemical herbicide
A BALLINA woman has launched a petition calling on Ballina Shire Council to stop spraying a chemical herbicide for weed control, arguing it could affect people's health.
Helen Hawkes, a journalist who has specialised in writing about wellness for national newspapers and magazines for the past 20 years, said Byron Shire Council is already taking steps to use non-chemical methods for weed control, like steam weeding or manual removal of weeds, and Ballina should follow suit.
In a letter to Ballina Mayor David Wright, she wrote she was particularly concerned about the spraying of glyphosate, sold around the world as Roundup and produced by the company Monsanto.
She argues use of the herbicide will "become more problematic in the future for councils as research into the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate continue to surface, with ensuing litigation, and more European retailers and international governments outlaw the chemical".
She refers to a March article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health arguing that glyphosate should be subject to further safety review about whether it causes cancer.
She cites the examples of two Swiss supermarket chains removing the glyphosate products from their shelves due to health risks, the banning in France of the herbicide in retail outlets and the prohibition of the sale and use of glyphosate in Sri Lanka.
Ballina Shire Council has a policy on the use of pesticides, which includes the use of herbicide. The use of pesticides is regulated by the Pesticides Act 1999, administered by the NSW EPA
The council's policy is about "balancing public safety against the benefits pest and weed control provide, to ensure the best outcome".
It was endorsed in 2015 and is due to be reviewed in 2019.
Under the accompanying pesticide use notification plan, the council does not have to give notice to the public of the spraying of pesticides around barbecue areas, playgrounds, sporting fields, skate facilities, footpaths and other public spaces when only small quantities of pesticide are used.
However, staff are required to provide notice if spraying occurs within 20m of a "sensitive places" like a preschool, hospital or aged-care facility and other places as determined by the EPA.
Meanwhile, the Monsanto website says "our products are among the most-tested in the world and their safety has been confirmed by third-party experts and regulatory agencies".
On June 27, the company announced it was fighting a listing of glyphosate on Proposition 65, officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, which aims to protect that US state's drinking water from cancer-causing chemicals.
"Glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and the listing of glyphosate under Prop 65 is unwarranted on the basis of science," Monsanto says on its website.
"OEHHA's (California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment) decision to list glyphosate is contrary to its own scientific assessment, which determined that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, as well as the conclusions of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and every regulatory body in the world that has studied glyphosate."
Helen Hawkes is also a part-time features writer for The Northern Star.