Alternatives to controversial weed killer 'ineffective and expensive', hears committee

Gardener Fay Sizer digs in compost to the soil in the Red and Lime Garden at Yeo Valley's Organic Ga

Some campaign groups would like the controversial pesticide to be banned in Havering. - Credit: PA

Havering will continue to use a controversial herbicide as alternative measures have been deemed ineffective and expensive, a committee heard. 

Campaign groups in the borough have previously called for the use of glyphosate to be halted, as some studies found it may be carcinogenic”. 

However, a report to Havering Council’s environment overview and scrutiny subcommittee on Tuesday, November 30, outlined the reasons for its continued use. 

Presenting the report to councillors, waste manager Jacki Ager noted the EU had relicensed the chemical up to the end of 2022 and studies suggesting a hazard to human health had been conducted in large-scale agricultural use. 

Havering currently takes an integrated approach to weed management, including the use of herbicides such as glyphosate and "manual suppressants" - pulling or strimming. 

It uses a diluted form of glyphosate, which contains COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health) warning. 

The council officer explained that use of the product was kept mainly to highways, with grass verges, parks and open spaces avoided. 

Ms Ager also noted some councils had adopted a “precautionary” approach to the use of the herbicide, and claimed some authorities which had trialled alternative methods had returned to glyphosate due to “reduced efficacy". 

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Hammersmith and Fulham borough has been pesticide-free since 2016. 

She said: “Some of these alternative methods such as foam treatments which have been trialled in Havering and acetic acid, which has been trialled in neighbouring Redbridge, are difficult to scale up to a borough of Havering’s size and represent a substantial cost differential.” 

Ian Pirie, co-ordinator of Havering Friends of the Earth, said the level of debate was “astonishingly poor”, noting a number of councillors who spoke had not heard of the chemical before. 

“The only positive outcome in my opinion was that the author of the report acknowledged that there is a controversy about glyphosate, and said she was open to further evidence,” he said. 

A petition calling for an end to the use of glyphosate by the borough has been signed by nearly 300 people. 

View it here.

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