Glyphosate weedkiller

I was asked by Spray Free Streets for my position on glyphosate containing herbicides, I was aware of the controversy but it’s not something I have a strong policy on – as you know I’m most interested in transport and housing.

This is the response I sent them:

We need to take this potential hazard seriously. It’s frustrating that the NZ Environmental Protection Authority disagrees with the WHO on the hazards of glyphosate, and that the WHO seems to disagree with itself. Because right now there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty, and we all just want to know if it’s dangerous or not.

While investigations continue we need to be extremely judicious about our use of any potentially nasty herbicides, if we even continue to use them at all. The various alternative weed control methods that council already uses – like steam, hot water, mechanical weeding, and plant-derived chemical herbicides – simply aren’t always as effective as the nasty chemicals are, depending on the target species, but I don’t want council workers and contractors, our fellow Aucklanders, our pets, and most especially our children placed at any unnecessary risk just because it’s convenient.

If we can find a safe effective replacement we need to use it.

It’s a concern to me that there are such big questions around glyphosate because it’s very widely used, and as I said in my reply above it’s frustrating that there’s nothing remotely like consensus on this.

I think council’s approach is probably pretty reasonable right now, and they say that when they need to use these sprays in playgrounds (for example) they try to time that carefully to minimise any potential hazard, and they use the (frankly much less effective) alternatives wherever they can.

But it would be better to use herbicides that don’t have such serious safety questions swirling around them. I’m just not sure if such a thing is actually available for us to use.

We don’t use herbicides for fun, we use them because we have a job to do, and that job needs to be done effectively but we owe it to everyone to do that job as safely as we can.

» Read the Science Media Centre’s glyphosate weedkiller briefing document for more info, straight from the horse’s mouths.