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Council to debate ban on controversial weedkiller

Environmental campaigners have called on the local authority to stop using glyphosate, which has been outlawed in many European countries.

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Campaigners calling on the Council to ban the use of glyphosate.

Graham Wroe

Campaigners are calling on Sheffield City Council to stop using the controversial weedkiller glyphosate, which has been linked to cancer deaths and a loss of biodiversity.

A petition against the use of the herbicide signed by 6,384 people will be presented to councillors by activist Graham Wroe at the next Full Council meeting on 7 July.

Freedom of Information requests have revealed that the council used 1,750 litres of glyphosate in 2018 (excluding sub-contractors), and the Council and contractor Amey used 3,451.5 litres in 2019.

“In Sheffield we spray ridiculous amounts of poisonous glyphosate on our streets, parks and playgrounds every year," said Wroe. "It is unnecessary, unsightly and dangerous, not just to insects and birds but to humans and pets too."

The local Green Party – who are part of the Council's new co-operative administration – support the petition, alongside Extinction Rebellion Sheffield, Sheffield Green Parents and Sheffield Greenpeace.

Green councillor Alison Teal, whose cabinet brief includes parks and sustainable neighbourhoods, said she was "urging [council] officers to make a swift decision on alternatives which they are already trialling."

"Over 25 countries have already banned it," she said. "Sheffield must do the same."

Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in products including Roundup, is widely used by councils in the UK to make public spaces look neat, even though this substantially reduces biodiversity.

Designed to kill weeds and other invasive species, studies have shown that the substance also kills beneficial insects and harms other kinds of wildlife such as bees and butterflies.

In November 2018, a Californian court ordered Monsanto to pay $83 million (£64 million) in damages to a groundskeeper who developed terminal cancer after using their product Roundup.

Safer alternatives to the weedkiller include hand weeding, mechanical weeding, spraying hot foam and turning lawns (a type of monoculture) into wildflower meadows, like those in the Grey to Green project at Castlegate.

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Graham Wroe.

UK councils including Hammersmith & Fulham and Glastonbury have stopped using glyphosate products, while the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Austria have all banned the substance.

On the day of Full Council, Wroe will hold a rally outside the venue at Ponds Forge with street theatre and speakers invited from different political parties.

"We are currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species, and insects are taking the biggest hit," said Deb from Extinction Rebellion, who will also speak at the rally."

A 2020 study published in [the journal] Science estimated that global bug populations are down 25% on land. Populations declined 9 percent every decade, meaning nearly a quarter of all insects have gone extinct in the last 30 years."

"The figure jumps to over half in the last 75 years. A different report estimated that all insects could be gone within 100 years If we lose our pollinators we lose much of our food supply."

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