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December 8, 2021

Women strip to protest Roundup spraying

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Chemical Free Landcare volunteers and supporters strip naked to show their support for an end to the use of gylphosate. Photo ©Trevor Avedissian
Chemical Free Landcare volunteers and supporters strip naked to show their support for an end to the use of gylphosate. Photo ©Trevor Avedissian

A group of north coast women have put their bodies on the line, literally, in an effort to stop councils and government authorities spraying glyphosate in their weed reduction activities.

Glyphosate, which was invented and is widely marketed by multinational chemical company Monsanto under the name Roundup, was named a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the World Health Organisation in March this year.

This action, together with the forthcoming trial of Monsanto at the International Court of Justice next year has prompted the women to take a stand.

With ‘I am water’ written on their bodies, the women are bringing attention to the protection of the essential resource from ongoing pollution with herbicides in the region.

‘Our bodies are made of water and we are one and the same as the environment. If we pollute the water with pesticides, we pollute ourselves,’ said Pietramale, local bush regenerator and co-ordinator of Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare Nadia de Sousa Pietramale.

‘While Monsanto will go on trial for crimes against humanity and nature, in Byron shire, glyphosate, a product developed by the company and an active ingredient of many herbicides, is still being poured into the environment where it ends up in our local rivers and catchments’ she added.

‘In Byron shire we see evidence of the latest herbicide use as the death of grasses along roadsides and drains. But the use of glyphosate doesn’t stop there. It’s the main tool used by Council staff and contractors in nearly all bush regeneration sites from the top of the catchment along creeks to the lowlands. It’s also used by other government agencies including the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Road Traffic Authority, on Crown lands and all along the train lines.

‘Contractors have been quietly spraying large areas of Bitou Bush in Tyagarah Nature Reserve. How can using a herbicide likely to cause cancer to mammals, on sandy soils surrounded by water, possibly improve coastal habitat?’

‘Community protest stopped aerial spraying of Tyagarah Nature Reserve in 2012, but National Parks has continued with large-scale ground spraying and the community remains concerned about the environmental effects of herbicide runoff into the ground water and lagoons.’

Chemical-free proposal rejected

But Nadia believes there is another way.

In 2012, volunteers provided a detailed proposal to the Northern Rivers Region National Parks for chemical-free bitou bush management in Tyagarah Nature Reserve. Nadia said the plan was rejected without any investigation. Nevertheless, volunteers have removed almost all bitou 300 metres north of the Grays Lane picnic area’.

‘We recently went there to carry on our follow-up work but the few seedlings left had been sprayed’, reported Tyagarah volunteer Gerd Kuhlmann.

‘We would like to see the spraying of Tyagarah Nature Reserve immediately stopped. The community can do much more but we need permission from National Parks to increase the area and they need to investigate the effectiveness of our methodology without rejecting it out of hand,’ Mr Kuhlmann said.

The trial of Monsanto will take place on October 16 next year at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.

Dozens of international food, agriculture and environmental justice groups are involved in the legal action. The trial is a ‘global citizens tribunal’ and not legally binding but such tribunals are seen as powerful tools for change in cases where the regular judicial system fails to hold powerful people or corporations accountable.


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  1. This is misinformation. This so called trial has nothing at all to do with the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
    “While the verbiage sounds official, this tribunal is not governed by the United Nations nor the International Criminal Court, an international treaty-based court not affiliated with the UN. Instead, the group is using the guidelines of both for their trial, in a seeming attempt to lend authenticity to a glorified meeting of the who’s who of anti-biotech science deniers, during which they will undoubtedly find their absent defendant guilty.”
    Most of the tribunal leaders have one thing in common: they are part of organic movement special interests.

    • so Robert the So-called agenda of Organic eaters ,is what ,to you …we should continue to ingest chemicals for what ?? to satisfy your need to lie to us on how dangerous Bio-tech chemicals are,especially in our food chain..While I agree some people do not know the difference between Bio engineered and chemical fertilizers and chemical weed and insect killers.However you are TOTALLY disingenuous to suggest “round-Up” is anything less then a chemical cocktail that destroys other weeds and natural plants…You may be able to convince somebody that Round-Up is safe ,but years of science show that chemical based herbicides and insecticides are destroying our food supply

    • to even suggest that there is a problem with Organic eating ,Seems to simply prove your a sick ,sick man .. Organics have been eaten for centuries long before chemicals came along to “save us” to suggest organic eating is somehow wrong is like suggesting those that do not want pollution in their air are somehow crazy

  2. Congratulations to Nadia and her determined group of women.

    Come and take a look at all the poisoned Coral trees along Wilson creek Road and Huonbrook……..leeching into the water supply. Where is the support for the herbicide -free volunteers while we see more grant money dished out to herbicide ridden land-care groups.

  3. You do realize that the so called court case is just a publicity stunt by certain anti gmo groups to fool the gullible into giving them more money The Hague has no idea what those people are talking about

  4. Sadly, these women need an education. Coffee & alcohol are regarded as more toxic than Roundup – it’s the dose that makes the poison. What a waste of an article & a protest. Never mind.

    • Jane, I think you may benefit more from ‘an education’ than those drawing attention to the documented health risks associated with Glyphosate. Coffee is listed as a Class 2b carcinogen (Possibly carcinogenic to humans) whereas Glyphosate is a Class 2a carcinogen (Probably carcinogenic to humans). There is quite a difference between ‘possibly’ (in accordance with what is likely or achievable, in particular – OED) and ‘probably’ (almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell – OED) don’t you think?

      Also is coffee really regarded as more toxic than Roundup? Perhaps the Byron Shire Council could make the switch to coffee if this is the case. The aroma would be much more pleasing at least.

      You might find this study of interest: ‘Association of Coffee Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective Cohorts’ which delivered the following conclusion: ‘Higher consumption of total coffee, caffeinated coffee, and decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of total mortality’. Whilst the health giving effects of coffee are very questionable – and it may well be bad for our health, no study has ever linked Glyphosate to ‘lower risk of total mortality’ – so I think it is very dishonest to rank it as more dangerous than Glyphosate.

    • Excellent news Joan – when are you and your Monsanto friends going to start drinking a glass of Roundup in the mornings? It seems we all agree that sooner is best…

  5. As for the “International Court of Justice”, you do know that’s a lie? The “trial”, and I use that term very loosly, is a bunch of activists meeting in a hotel. No court, no legal system, no judge, no enforceable outcomes… it’s a joke.

    As for “probable carcinogen”, that makes it LESS dangerous than coffee, alcohol, sunlight and in a category that also includes night shifts, carpentry and hair dressing. Seriously. And the follow-up reports that happen after IARC releases its category have confirmed the actual risk of cancer from Glyphosate is extremely low.

    It also breaks down naturally in the soil to harmless components, so there’s no long-term issue with it.

    Are you also aware that salt, vinegar, coffee, and plenty of every-day items are more toxic than glyphosate? This is just an irrational beat-up – good PR for a bad ideology.

  6. Sigh. There is no trial. There is no legal action. There is a cheap publicity stunt organized by OCA et al. The “outcome” has already been determined.

  7. Well, nice picture ladies, however once again we have north coast mythologies clouding the reality of the situation. There is some confusion in such reports. Monsanto is not Glyphosate, the patent has expired and now any old company can manufacture the stuff. As to risk of cancer, that may be a reality for those like myself who have nearly a daily exposure but to the average member of the public, it is negligible. The risk of daily exposure causing cancer is equivalent to alcohol and other lifestyle contaminants, with proper precautions human impacts can be reduced practically zero

    Environmental contamination, it is unfair to compare bush regeneration and roadside spraying or conflate it with agricultural uses. The concentration rates and method of application is completely different, for example “spot spraying” is a common bush regeneration technique; targeting of individual weeds. Power spraying and boom spraying are synonymous with agriculture, blanket spraying is a technique of roadsides and gutters, completely different. It is unfortunate that protesters confuse them all. Water contamination: ok they’re spraying the dunes, 1: no water is extracted from dunes for human consumption. 2: there is unlikely to be an aquifer in this area, sand islands can have fresh water lenses, like Fraser and Straddy but there are no major water sources being nourished by the dune water in this area. Its a bit of a red herring to raise concerns about water contamination.

    Proper application means that minimal herbicide is actually touching the ground anyway as it only works when it is applied as a foliar spray. When the maths is done on the herbicide quantities it is truly minimal I work it out to be 0.12g/m2 (glyphosate) and rarely is it even that because its spot spraying, foliar application of large weed infestations and so less than 0.12gm2 actually comes into contact with the soil.

    There is no doubt that corporations have a lot to answer for in the world. But don’t demonise us poor bush regenerators!!! We are doing the best with the tools we have to get the best outcome for nature within the constraints of a corporate capitalist world. The volunteer thing is a valiant effort but ultimately a Pyrrhic victory, the fact that the area was sprayed speaks volumes about the results being achieved. Sorry guys, try harder next time with the follow up!

  8. They are protesting against a “probable” carcinogen.
    Do they advocate banning sunshine, alcohol and coffee, which are all confirmed carcinogens?

    • Oh yes silly them – protesting a known ‘probable’ carcinogen. How very irrational indeed! I personally take all the probable carcinogens I can get because they are only fairly certain to cause cancer or other negative health effects – not 100% guaranteed – so no worries there.

      Now on to your argument (or lack thereof):
      Firstly, who in the world would advocate banning the sun? Leaving aside the fact that this is impossible and not even worth entertaining, many people choose to wear sunscreen to protect themselves. Little protection of this kind exists for Glyphosate and many people are totally unaware that they are even being exposed to it, so it is very hard to protect oneself against something you don’t actually know exists.

      Secondly, alcohol and coffee are equally poor comparisons (but are sadly used ad nauseam by those defending glyphosate) as the intake of each can be regulated by the individual. They are not hidden ingredients in items we buy off supermarket shelves – they are required to be labeled by law so those who wish to avoid them can do so. Parents can ensure their children do not ingest either substance very easily – very hard to do with glyphosate thanks to the indiscriminate spraying and overuse in food production. I have never had a knock on the door from council and been asked if I consent to glyphosate being sprayed in the nature reserve where animals and children frequently play.

  9. The current scare regarding Glyphosate being a probable carcinogen is based on tests done in the US in reference to genetically modified crops that had been developed to be Glyphosate resistant. Anti GMO lobbyists have been on the ‘RoundUp’ case for years in an effort to dig up something to discredit the product. For a good insight into the reality of what has festered recently, have a read of the Genetic Literacy Report geneticliteracyproject.org
    Personally, I think people fear Round Up because it will kill most green plants whereas selective herbicides will only kill certain weeds. Don’t be fooled by this. Most selective herbicides are far more toxic than Glypho. I am always amazed with coastal bush regenerators who fear Round Up (LD50 rating 5,600 mg/kg ) use will toxify the environment but then happily use Koppers Logs and treated timbers for their boardwalks and fencing. These timbers contain CCA Copper Chrome Arsenic. LD50 ratings Copper 470mg/kg, Chromium 80mg/kg and Arsenic 48mg/kg.
    I am a professional Rural Landscape Manager and have extensive produce gardens and fish filled dams on my own property. I use all organic methods of gardening but still happily use glyphosate on all my paths, gravel stand out areas, dam edges and bare veggie plots once a crop has been removed, prior to seedlings going in. I stay away from using any toxic chemicals preferring to use natural chilli sprays, natural pyrethrums, dispel and on occasions a bit of white oil but have no problem using round up because I have read the facts on the product to understand how it works. My biggest concern in the past was not so much the glyphosate component but the surfactant added as a plant ‘sticker’ that can be harmful to some aquatic life. Frog friendly glyphosate products are available that don’t have the surfactant in them. Cyndan Glyphocyde and Weedmaster Duo.
    I support any community minded people who don’t want to see our beautiful Northern Rivers polluted but I fear that we are protesting about something that has little or no effect on us and the animal life and waterways around us, yet there are much, much worse things toxing our systems and environment that are ignored.
    To me it’s like protesting to have aspirin banned and ignoring the methamphetimine epidemic.
    Regards Paul Lockhart

    • ‘I use all organic methods of gardening but still happily use glyphosate on all my paths, gravel stand out areas, dam edges and bare veggie plots…’ – quite the oxymoron you have there.

    • It is baffling as to why you recommend the Genetic Literacy Report ‘[f]or a good insight into the reality of what has festered recently’ – as the executive director of the GLR is non other than pro-GM and agrochemical industry lobbyist Jon Entine!

      Not only did Joe proudly list Monsanto as a ‘select client’ on his ESG MediaMetrics consultancy firm’s website along with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and P&G (the website was removed after this revelation was made publicly known- source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Entine#Organizational_affiliations) – he was also paid as a consultant by the White House Writers Group who were representing another GMO/Chemical giant (Sygenta) to manage their public image when they were the subject of a major lawsuit that sought to have Sygenta ‘compensate local water utilities for the cost of filtering Syngenta’s weed-killer out of drinking water supplies’ (source: http://www.sourcewatch.org/images/c/c2/Syn_email_WHWG_Roundup_memo.pdf).

      A few of the universally recognised qualities that constitute a legitimate authority on any subject include:

      1. The person has sufficient expertise in the subject matter in question.
      2. The claim being made by the person is within their area(s) of expertise.
      3. The person in question is not significantly biased.

      Unfortunately Joe Entine ticks none of the above boxes, and whilst those employed by him to sing the praises of Monsanto and other agribusiness giants may not share his bias and conflicts of interest – it is hard to have much faith in the Genetic Literacy Project to give a fair and balanced overview of the issues. Definitely worth checking out – but not for ‘good insight into the reality of what has festered recently’.

  10. Honest question, not baiting: What are the odds any of these ladies have actually worked on a farm, rather than getting their information from hypocritical conspiracy Web sites and YouTube videos?

    • Honest answer: I’m sure the chances are — unsurprisingly — very good that some of those ladies pictured have worked on a farm – but they will have to confirm this themselves. Did you contact any of those named in the article to enquire? Or does that involve too much work?

      And did you actually read this article? It is criticising the use of Glyphosate by ‘Council staff and contractors in nearly all bush regeneration sites from the top of the catchment along creeks to the lowlands’. The only reference to farming was in your comment.

  11. The first interesting thing about this picture is the use of hands to obscure the ladie’s ladygardens. Some of them are covering their neighbour’s, fewer their own, and the brazen lady in the middle is out and proud. What will her gran think!?

    The second is the alarmist message. Glyphosate breaks down in soil and water, and its degree of pollution of water sources is tiny to unmeasurable. The extent to which it may cause cancer is unknown. A study in people who had been using it as professional agricultural and horticultural workers over long periods showed a possible increase in risk of a fairly rare malignant disease. Other studies have been less suggestive.

    The official classification promulgated by the WHO, 2a, also applies to Aloe Vera, fried food, particularly food fried in sunflower oil, and pickled vegetables. This video is informative: https://youtu.be/CbBkB81ySxQ

    It is a mistake to believe something just because it fits your preconceived world view. This is called prejudice, and it is much mor toxic than fried food, pickled vegetables and glyphosate.

    Now, I know this is Northern Australia, and so you won’t catch your deaths, dears, but that sky is pretty clear, and exposure to UV light is much more carcinogenic than a ton of glyphosate with fries and pickled gherkins. So go and put your clothes back on.

  12. If only we had the water we were meant to drink other than the chemically enhanced nullified liquid that they call water causes so many deasises from cancer to alziemers to dementia, l beleive big pharma has a hand in this!!

  13. By stripping in this way, these ladies have exposed themselves to a known carcinogen – ultraviolet light. Presumably there were a couple of takes – so the exposure could have been consequential. What it demonstrates is that these people are totally unable to quantify risk, and compare relative risks. As others have stated, this rogue committee within the WHO put glyphosate in a category with many every day items. A much more discerning body for quantifying risks is the EU appointed European Food Safety Authority has re-evaluated all known data, and has re-affirmed their no-discernable risk status for glyphosate. Ladies and other exhibitionists – beware of skin cancer.


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