A Wilsons Creek resident is still waiting to hear back on a complaint he lodged to Byron Shire Council almost a month ago over its continued use of the herbicide glyphosate, despite it being declared ‘a probable carcinogen’ by the World Health Organisation in March.
The herbicide is most commonly known under its brand name Roundup, which is marketed by the controversial multinational Monsanto.
It is one of the most widely used pesticides in the world including, in our region, by farmers, rainforest regenerators and shire councils.
Byron Shire Council uses glyphosate in spray form to control weeds, especially on roadside verges.
Wilsons Creek resident and organic farmer Eckhard Werner told Echonetdaily he recently noticed the grass along the sides and embankments of Wilsons Creek Road had ‘chemically burnt’ look ‘typical of Roundup being applied in large doses’.
‘Wilsons Creek is a water catchment area, supplying water to Mullumbimby,’ he said.
‘Roundup has just been declared a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organisation.
‘I have requested a Council Investigation and received a confirmation [of my complaint but] there has been no further response by the Council, which is why it seems necessary to bring the issue into the public view,’ Mr Werner said in an email to Echonetdaily dated May 20.
According the council’s record of Mr Werner’s complaint, ‘The spray area is all the way along Wilsons Creek Rd and the contractor has drenched the water ways that are crossing the roads. Resident would like a full and written report on how we have followed protocol, legislation and environmental regulations in the spraying of Wilsons Creek Road and the waterways and how we can prove that. The resident would also appreciate an inspection undertaken in this location on site, by a person who has knowledge and expertise in this area to assess the situation. Especially around the creek crossings.
‘The resident has stated that many residents pull their water from the creek and the roundup is being placed directly into the creek and poisoning people and wildlife,’ the council record concluded.
Glyphosate essential: council
Echonetdaily received a response from Byron Shire Council, more than a week after it was initially requested, but it failed to address Mr Werner’s concern regarding the change in status of the chemical.
Byron Shire Council’s director of infrastructure services, Phil Holloway, said the Wilsons Creek roadside weed control was undertaken by a contractor on behalf of the council.
‘The operator was trained, licensed and was using frog-friendly glyphosate in a manner approved by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority,’ Mr Holloway said.
He added that roadside vegetation control was ‘essential to assist with sight lines for travelling vehicles.’
‘Plus, spraying in some areas is a key way in managing weeds. Other methods include slashing and hand weeding.
‘Unfortunately, with many rural roads within the shire and only a limited budget, broad scale hand weeding was not possible. Where we can, we are more than willing to help support local chemical free Landcare groups.’
Mr Holloway also noted that steam weeding had had extra funds allocated in the upcoming 2015/16 budget.
‘We are aiming to use this chemical free method in high use areas such as playgrounds and footpaths,’ he said.
People who are sensitive to chemicals are urged to register on the council’s Register of Chemical Sensitive Residents and Organic Growers.
IARC finds carcinogenicity
On March 20 this year, the 17 experts from 11 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC; Lyon, France) to assess the carcinogenicity of organophosphate pesticides including glyphosate.
IARC evaluated evidence of human exposures, mostly in agricultural workers, in the US, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. The agency found ‘limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.’
There is ‘convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals,’ IARC reported.
Monsanto is strongly disputing the assessment, which was published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on March 20.
The company claims that the determination is not supported by scientific data.