Glyphosate weed killer ban proposed

Wednesday May 8th 2019

Dandelions Midlothian glyphosate

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Use of a common weed killer has been temporarily suspended by Midlothian Council over concerns about its impact on communities.

Midlothian Council agreed to halt the use of glyphosate weed killers across its services while it investigates concerns about its safety.

The commonly used herbicide is available to buy at DIY stores and gardening centres across the UK.

Councillor Colin Cassidy, who brought a motion to the local authority demanding a ban on its use, said he had seen the impact with his own eyes after a recent spraying near his home left his driveway “covered with dead bees”.

And he said concerns had been raised by residents whose dogs had become violently ill after eating grass in local parks and in Lugton, near Dalkeith, where there is a large bee colony.

He said: “I’ve had complaints about the council spraying dandelions in the early spring. Dandelions are the first source of food for bees and bees are an essential part of the ecosystem as everyone knows.

“In Lugton there is a very large bee colony and as soon as the sun shone, the flowers came out and our men were up there with the sprays, spraying them.”

Glyphosate is a herbicide which has been banned across several European countries and states in America amid concerns about its effect on wildlife and health.

Two US court cases have seen juries rule it caused cancer in the last year although America’s Environmental Protection Agency has this month insisted it is not a carcinogen.

However concerns have been raised about the cumulative effect of using it year after year and its impact on wildlife and public health.

Councillor Cassidy told fellow councillors: “This is not only a cost to our insect life this is a cost to human life.

“The French have banned it, there are something like 12 states in America who have banned it. We have to take the first step.”

However his motion sparked a debate during a meeting of the council this week after colleagues raised concerns about the impact of banning the weed killer.

Councillor John Hackett warned finding an alternative could be costly at a time when there was no money in the budget to find a change.

He called for more research to be carried out before any ban is introduced and asked for a report to be produced for the next council meeting before a decision is taken.

He warned: “The consequence of not using it is we will have weeds. This is why we have weed management.”

And he told his SNP colleagues who were calling for the ban that he would send complaints he received from constituents about weeds to their offices.

The debate led Provost Councillor Peter Smaill to comment “I never expected dandelions to be quite this emotive.”

However Councillor Dianne Alexander, who seconded the motion for a ban, told councillors: “We are creating an eco disaster. We have to take a stance somewhere and it would be better to take it now.”

Councillor Andrew Hardie suggested an alternative motion to have a moratorium on the use of glyphosate weed killers until a report on their impact could be brought to the next council meeting.

Councillor Smaill asked members to vote on the “motion on dandelions proposing a moratorium”, adding “it will possible mean more weeds and dandelions in the next month or two”.

It was passed unanimously.

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