As the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. I thought this today when talking to visitors at Verulamium Park in St Albans.
I joined the local Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace groups to increase signatories for a petition that will stop St Albans council using the pesticide glyphosate, or Roundup, the popular weed killer, as you and I know it better.
You see, the problem with glyphosate, and I only learnt about this recently too, is the damage it does to the environment and its links to cancer. When used on hard surfaces it ‘runs-off’ during rain into rivers harming aquatic wildlife. On the land, pesticides kill everything apart from grass preventing a range of plants and flowers from growing, destroying a balanced ecosystem that welcomes birds, insects including bees, and other wildlife. Bees are particularly important as the main pollinator of our crops – without bees we wouldn’t have any food.
In 2018 one man won his legal battle against the maker of Round-Up, Monsanto. He was awarded £226m in damages from the company, after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014 having been a groundsman for many years using Round-Up. Despite there not being conclusive scientific evidence that glyphosate is in any way ‘bad’, this ruling is enough for us not to trust it.
The World Health Organisation classify glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic to human’ so it’s no wonder a number of countries have already banned the pesticide – well done Luxembourg on being the first EU country to apply a complete ban. France’s ban comes into effect in 2021 minus a few exceptions, while Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain have enforced partial bans. Everyone else is lagging behind – Germany, Italy, Greece, Malta, and yep, the UK.
Despite there not being a UK wide ban, over 40 smart councils have taken the proactive decision to ban or limit use of the substance – ‘prevention is better than cure’, as ‘they’ say. Find out your council’s pesticide status at pan-uk.org
This is what we shared the residents and visitors to St Albans today. Everyone who spared two minutes of their time to speak to us, signed the petition. Why wouldn’t they, right. It’s clearly bad for people and the planet. The only issue, in hindsight, was our location. Verulamium Park attracts visitors from neighboring boroughs, which is no surprise as it’s a beautiful space, but St Albans council only accept petition signatures from St Albans residents. So although it’s good to raise awareness of an issue with a broad audience, we have to get 500 local signatures, so we need to be targeted with our approach. Lesson for all campaigners – make sure to fully consider your target audience for a campaign, and make sure your location is where this audience will be. Next weekend we’ll move to the market where the proportion of residents is higher.