Cork County Council to Review Use of Roundup

By Seamus Whelehan

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Cork County Council’s Environmental Special Purposes Committee is to review its protocols surrounding the use of Roundup and other weed killers containing Glyphosates.The move comes following the tabling of a Motion by Independent Cllr Diarmaid O’Cadhla at a recent Sitting of full Council calling for a ban on its use, and other Glyphosates.

The Independent Cllr said he was calling for an outright ban amid mounting concern that its continued use might cause cancer.   Roundup is the World’s most widely used Herbicide by horticulturalists and the farming community to combat weeds, and is sprayed as a pre-harvest treatment in some crops.

The Local Authority frequently uses Pesticides across a range of locations including roads, amenity sites and waste facilities.   A landmark case in the US taken against Monsanto (owner company Beyer) by a terminally ill grounds keeper ordered the company to pay nearly $290m (€253m).

Last year the San Francisco Jury ruled that Roundup and its professional grade version, Rangerpro, probably contributed “substantially” to Dewayne Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  The jury also found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression” and ruled it knew, or should have known, that the weed killer was dangerous.   Although the manufacturer of the weed killer insists that the continued use of the product here is safe, the Council’s Environment Special Purposes Committee “will, as a matter of course, review its risk assessments, work plans and controls.”   The German Pharmaceutical giant, Beyer, Monsanto’s Parent Company, insists that the product is safe.  “Beyer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusion of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that Glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label.”

In a joint report to Council the County Directors of Roads and Environment, together with the County Safety Advisor say that, while the Council’s “volume of Glyphosate used is not quantified” they are not banning the use of Roundup products.  Roundup is used regularly by the Local Authority in the eradication of noxious weeds like Japanese Knotweed.

Cllr Danielle Twomey, who backed Cllr O’Cadhla’s Motion, said Tidy Towns and other organisations are being encouraged not to use Roundup.   The Sinn Fein Cllr said “It’s a very toxic chemical which affects the soil biology and is toxic to organisms that live in the soil. We probably don’t even know what effects it has on health or how dangerous it is.”

Independent Cllr Marcia Dalton, an Environmental Engineer, said agriculture systems have become intertwined with Glyphosate and consequently affecting our Eco systems.   “The bees which pollinate all our crops, and all our food systems are affected by Glyphosate. The microorganisms in the bee’s stomach are dying. The same can be said of the earth worm, the building blocks of our soil Eco system, without which we cannot function as a world”

Cllr Kevin Murphy said he refuted that Roundup was harming any food.   The Fine Gael Cllr said “we are the cleanest and greenest food industry in the world and we can boast about it.”  He said the EU took the decision a number of months ago to use Glyphosate for the next five years without interruption.”

Fellow Fine Gael Cllr Anthony Barry said that no matter what report you look at you have differing reports. He said he was recommending that the Council Environment Committee would discuss the use of Glyphosate further.

Chief Executive Tim Lucey said the Local Authority will continue to use Roundup, especially to treat noxious weeds.  He said each weedkiller comes with its own Safety Data Sheet which outlines all the safety requirements for the use, storage, transport and disposal of the weedkiller.