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Auckland Council Accused of Putting Public at Risk

Auckland Council Accused of Putting Public at Risk

A complete ban on the spraying of glyphosate, also known as Roundup, on all public land in Auckland is called for after a New Zealand toxicologist confirms heightened risks of the chemical. Leaked documents show Auckland Council trivialising the serious health risk.

The Weed Management Advisory (WMA) said today that comments made in a radio broadcast this week by University of Canterbury toxicologist Professor Ian Shaw backs up their own concern about the continued use of the chemical glyphosate on Auckland parks and roads following its reclassification in March 2015 by the WHO as a probable human carcinogen.

Hana Blackmore of the WMA said Professor Shaw’s comments that the benefits and risks associated with using glyphosate had now shifted and in his opinion there was now a fairly major negative on the risk side, should be heeded.

His final assessment was that it is “probably time for city councils and similar people to rethink its use”. He concluded that they should be asking “… is there something else we can do instead, and if there is, lets replace it.’”

The WMA emphasises that even without Prof Shaw’s cautions, the reclassification of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) should have been enough to put Auckland Council on high alert about its use of this chemical. Instead they have just pushed through measures under the Long Term Plan (LTP) to increase its use.

“This in an arrogant disregard of the welfare of Auckland’s population” said Hana Blackmore. “One month before LTP decisions we not only saw Mayor Len Brown personally, but went before Councils full Regional Strategy and Policy Committee and detailed the just released IARC information for them. We appealed to Council and Transport (AT) to replace this chemical in all its roads and parks operations.”

But a leaked Auckland Council briefing document shows that not only was the WMA’s concern dismissed, but the IARC evidence was rejected in apparent justification of Council’s long-term budget recommendations to expand the use of this chemical throughout Auckland.

“There is little doubt that Council and AT have been captured by the chemical industry, which is a huge concern” said Blackmore. “The briefing document is replete with agrichemical ‘commendation’ and blatantly quotes the Monsanto/industry line that there is doubt and debate internationally about this [IARC] review and ‘… significant technical evidence to counter the IARC carcinogenic classification’ ”.

“As opinioned elsewhere, ‘IARC is about as scientifically rigorous and independent an institution as they come’. Monsanto in comparison is a transnational corporation with a powerful profit motive in defending its own product. That Council chooses to ‘believe’ the latter instead of independent scientists and studies will lead many to speculate about how much it acts in the interest of Aucklanders.”

Blackmore added that AT was even quoted in the briefing document as informing Council that it is not aware of ANY evidence to suggest that the use of glyphosate for the purposes of vegetation control in the road corridor poses ANY risk to human health. “This, in complete denial of the wealth of information that has been put in front of them on the adverse effects of glyphosate” she said.

Dr Meriel Watts, scientist, author and international pesticides expert totally rejects AT’s ill-informed and unsound opinion.

“It is appalling that Auckland Council and its CCOs are now adopting this industry-promoted line. They are ignoring the decades of sound, unbiased scientific research that has culminated in this IARC re-classification of glyphosate as a serious health risk”, she said. “And I agree with Professor Ian Shaw’s comments that glyphosate is also an endocrine disruptor – as he noted, it mimics the female hormone oestrogen.

“All chemicals carry health and environmental risks, but in this case glyphosate is a serious concern because of its high cancer rating and because it is ubiquitous. More people are exposed to glyphosate on a daily basis than any other pesticide. Yet it carries a higher risk of cancer than almost all other pesticides still in use, and in fact many that have been banned. To justify its use as Council does in this document because “everyone” uses it is a nonsensical circular argument.”

“For Council to take this dramatic about-turn now on its own Weed Management Policy and expand the use of glyphosate, when the world is moving in the exact opposite direction, flies in the face of all reason and responsibility”, said Dr Watts. “They seem incapable of understanding the health risk.”

“Even before the IARC report came out, cities and countries around the world were restricting glyphosate products. Now they are moving rapidly to stop its use in public places and to ban it altogether. Some businesses in Europe are voluntarily pulling consumer products from supermarket and gardening-centre shelves. And we are entrenching its use? Why? Who is benefiting here?”

The WMA says the time for polite requests is over. Having worked professionally and positively with Auckland Council and AT for years to find a way to reduce public exposure to glyphosate, the gloves are now off and they are demanding a total ban on its use on public roads and land that Council and its CCOs are responsible for - effective immediately.

“Both Council and AT have previously justified the use of glyphosate in its weed and vegetation control operations because they say “it is the ‘safest’ chemical available” said Hana Blackmore. “If this probable carcinogen and endocrine disruptor is the ‘safest’ chemical available, then there is no substitute and nonchemical operations must be implemented – now.”

The WMA says this can be done tomorrow with the minimum of disruption to weed and vegetation control.

“I know everyone is sick of us saying this, but Auckland Council has a Weed Management Policy that was developed to guide us simply and easily away from chemicals. It could have been implemented two years ago” said Blackmore. “That it wasn’t, and now seems to have been distorted and ‘reinterpreted’ to advocate chemical preference is of huge concern, indicating some level of over-riding manipulation or influence.”

The WMA said that Council has also made policy decisions and million dollar funding allocations in its LTP based on this briefing document. WMA say that not only is the chemical expansion biased and in contradiction of Council’s own policy, but the costing information provided is false and unfounded, as has been pointed out to both Council and AT repeatedly.

“We believe Councillors have been misled by these figures. As Cllr John Watson said on air, he believed there was an attempt to grossly exaggerate the cost of using nonchemical means to continue with chemicals. He found that disingenuous and objectionable. The WMA agrees, and there should be an open, transparent and independent investigation of these costings as a matter of urgency.”

Dr Watts said that in the end, the only consideration for Council should be the health and welfare of the public. “The balance has indeed shifted as Professor Shaw has noted. To risk anyone’s health is irresponsible, but to trivialise the risk as Council is doing is to compound the insult. They must ban all use of glyphosate on public land, now.”


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