Are chemicals killing more than just weeds?
RENEWED health and safety concerns about the use of glyphosate has prompted one councillor to call for a review of the shire's weed management policy.
The World Health Organisation has classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic". It is the main active ingredient in the popular herbicide Roundup produced by American company Monsanto.
The chemical giant has already lost three trials in the US over links between cancer and glyphosate and has been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in damages to four cancer patients, with thousands more plaintiffs awaiting trial
And this week the first Australian lawsuit against Monsanto was filed. German pharmaceutical company Bayer bought Monsanto last year and has seen a drop in its share price of more than 40 per cent since the first verdict against it.
Bellingen Shire Council deputy mayor Toni Wright-Turner's call for a review was supported by mayor Dominic King and councillors Steve Klipin and Jennie Fenton with councillors Gerry Carter, Desmae Harrison and Steve Jenkins voting against it.
Bellingen council currently uses Roundup for weed control across the LGA, including in children's playgrounds, public areas in town and in water catchment areas.
Ms Wright-Turner has been an organic and biodynamic gardener for over 40 years and has long held reservations about its use.
"It has become clear to me that as a councillor, with a governance responsibility for the well-being of our Shire, it is imperative that we look at the evidence and review our use of Glyphosate around our Shire."
Dozens of other councils across Australia are trialling alternatives and moving towards bans.
"I'm concerned for councils in general around potential litigation but what really triggered me was some reading I was doing about the potential impact on pollinators."
She says two studies in 2018 found that Glyphosate could be harming honey bees by targeting the specialised bacteria they harbour in their gut.
As evidence mounts in relation to the potential impacts of the popular herbicide so too has the development of more natural alternatives.
"Steam weeding is a currently available alternative trialled in a number of Shires around Australia, and one in our area, Byron Shire Council, is now on a path to zero chemical use in weed control." Ms Wright-Turner said.
NSW Farmers says no risk if you follow the label
In light of Australia's first cancer lawsuit over Roundup filed in Australia NSW Farmers issued the following statement:
"NSW Farmers has confidence in the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) as an independent, science-based regulator that governs the registration and regulation of use of agricultural chemicals in Australia.
"Last year's Senate inquiry into the independence of regulatory decisions made by the APVMA reiterated the integrity of Australia's chemical regulation system.
"The APVMA has concluded that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic risk to humans and has determined that when used in accordance with label instructions, it is safe," Chair of the NSW Farmers Ag Science committee Dave Mailler said.