COUNCILS should ban the use of Roundup or risk being sued by employees and residents if their health is affected, say action groups.
The call comes in the wake of a landmark lawsuit in the United States in which a jury found chemical giant Monsanto liable for causing a school groundsman’s cancer from his exposure to the weedkiller.
The active chemical in Roundup – glyphosate –is classified as probably carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation but is still approved for use in Australia.
Alliance for a Clean Environment convenor Jane Bremmer said councils should immediately suspend the use of glyphosate in public places, particularly children’s playgrounds.
“Local government authorities are now compelled by this legal precedent to protect their constituents and worker’s health and their own legal liability by suspending the use of glyphosate in public places and invest in safer, alternative weed control practices,” she said.
“It is simply absurd to suggest that allowing children to play on freshly sprayed grass within minutes of a pesticide application is safe.
“It’s a tragic case of the Emperor’s new clothes with potentially deadly consequences.”
The Shire of Mundaring and City of Kalamunda said they would continue to use glyphosate in line with the advice from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) recommendation that products containing the pesticide were safe to use as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
City of Swan CEO Mike Foley acknowledged several European countries had banned the use of glyphosate and said the council would monitor developments nationally and internationally.
Director of Australian anti-GM group Gene Ethics Bob Phelps said the court ruling raised thorny questions for the industry.
“These organisations should now cease their weedkiller use or risk being sued for breach of care to workers and citizens,” he said.
“Roundup is available from most hardware shops and supermarkets and retailers should review their liability for selling an unsafe product and take it off their shelves.”
APVMA chief executive officer Dr Chris Parker said they would continue to track and consider any new scientific information associated with the safety and effectiveness of glyphosate.
“In 2016, the APVMA found no grounds to place glyphosate under formal reconsideration,” he said.
“Glyphosate is registered for use in Australia and APVMA approved products containing glyphosate can continue to be used safely according to label directions.”
Mr Phelps called for an urgent review of Roundup in light of the new evidence discovered during the US trial.
Monsanto has denied the link between glyphosate and cancer and will appeal the decision.