Glyphosate 'safe, effective' if used correctly says Snowy Monaro council

Council said it is "among the multitude of organisations across many industries who have used Roundup for many years".
Council said it is "among the multitude of organisations across many industries who have used Roundup for many years".

Councils around the region are not considering banning glyphosate use despite recent legal action linking it to cancer.

Despite a recent $2.8billion payout to a Californian couple after their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was linked to Roundup, the controversial herbicide remains in use by the Snowy Monaro and Bega Valley shire councils.

I think it would be difficult to not have concerns if you've been following the news.

Bega Valley Shire Councillor Cathy Griff

The product which contains glyphosate was also set to be sprayed from the air over parts of Wollongong at the same time as legal action has been launched by a former Melbourne gardener against its manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Michael Ogalirolo claims his leukaemia was caused by exposure to the pesticide over a 20 year period, and ongoing questions surrounding its safety has led to alternative methods of weed control being considered.

SMRC said it is not currently considering banning glyphosate formulations as it's "deemed a safe and effective tool when used in accordance with label directions".

The council said it was used for managing weeds on roadsides, reserves and operational lands in the local government area, among a range of pesticides applied as appropriate.

"On the weight of evidence provided by Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), council is not currently considering a ban on glyphosate formulations; however council will remain compliant with any future direction by the APVMA and NSW Environment Protection Authority," a council spokesperson said.

In the Bega Valley Shire, Greens councillor Cathy Griff raised her concerns over the use of the chemical in public spaces, especially near children, during recent council meetings.

"I think it would be difficult to not have concerns if you've been following the news," she said.

"I think we're going to look back on Roundup like we do now with Agent Orange.

"Like so many other substances that were assumed safe in the past, we will see councils attempt to stop its use.

Michael Ogalirolo, a former gardener, has leukemia which he attributes to exposure to the pesticide Roundup over more than 20 years.

Michael Ogalirolo, a former gardener, has leukemia which he attributes to exposure to the pesticide Roundup over more than 20 years.

"I am concerned about safety issues, especially in the proximity of parks and playgrounds."

Cr Griff said while she had used Roundup on her property to combat weeds in the past, she changed her approach following a number of successful court cases against the manufacturer Monsanto and the fact councils are looking at other approaches.

Bega Valley Shire Council said it is "among the multitude of organisations across many industries who have used Roundup for many years", and said trials for alternatives are currently underway.

"In council's case the use of this product has predominantly centred around the control of weeds and keeping lawn edges in check," a spokesperson said.

"There are ongoing conversations within council around reducing the use of herbicides, where feasible, through moving to other technologies and methods.

"There have been trials undertaken using alternative methods, including steam in Bega Park, in recent times and the effectiveness is being assessed."

Council said its biosecurity team no longer actively sprays for weeds on a regular basis, and during "irregular minor outbreaks" employees and contractors are required to take appropriate precautions "recommended by the manufacturer".

Roundup is regarded as an effective herbicide if safety instructions are followed.

Roundup is regarded as an effective herbicide if safety instructions are followed.

"Since the implementation of the Biosecurity Act, the role of the biosecurity team is as the local compliance authority, so the respective land owners are responsible for the decision regarding the control method," council said.

"Having said that, at present, biosecurity do manage the employment of certified contractors on behalf of council for roadside spraying, for African lovegrass and blackberry, and they do utilise the recommended herbicides for the targeted species."

Council is required to notify residents when pesticides and herbicides are being used in public areas, and said the work is often undertaken by "town teams", with application methods and rates directed by product material safety data sheets.

Cr Griff said she welcomed the use of alternatives, and said a steam weed killer has been purchased by the community group taking care of the Panboola Wetlands.

"It will allow us to track the results of its use in this sensitive wetland," Cr Griff said.

"The lessons learned will be very meaningful, especially for areas like kid's playgrounds."

With a potential class action suit on the horizon in Australia, Monsanto's parent company Bayer AG said it plans to invest $5.6billion over the next 10 years on the development of new weedkillers.

On its website the company said "glyphosate is one of the most widely used and thoroughly evaluated herbicides in the world".

"The overwhelming consensus is that glyphosate, when used properly, poses no adverse effects to people, wildlife or the environment," they said.

Despite a 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer assessment classifying glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans", the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority "found no grounds to place it under formal reconsideration".

A review commissioned by the Department of Health "concluded that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans and that there are no grounds to place it under formal reconsideration".

"The current assessment by the APVMA is that products containing glyphosate are safe to use according to the label instructions," the authority's website says.

The Illawarra District Weeds Authority announced it will be spraying from helicopters in late June, and Shoalhaven City Council have said glyphosate does not pose a risk to the community.

At the same time, Fairfield City Council has stopped using Roundup, and eight other Sydney councils are conducting reviews of its use.