Whilst sat in a taxi a couple of years ago travelling through the town of Leverkusen to the Bayer facilities in Germany, I noticed that the pavements and kerbs were covered in weeds. How ironic, I thought, that arguably the largest pharmaceutical and producer of pesticides on the planet would allow the surrounding streets and roads to get so badly infested. When I raised this later with my hosts, I was told that the use of herbicides was banned and that teams of 'weeders' manually did what they could to keep weeds under control.
At the most recent Amenity Forum, there was a discussion on the possible banning of Glyphosate use within the EU in the near future; a decision that could have far reaching consequences in agriculture, horticulture, amenity and landscaping. There is, quite simply, no economically viable substitute for this chemical.
There's reams of information on the web about the low toxicity of Glyphosate; after all, it's the most widely used weed control chemical the world over. If your feet are in the Greenpeace camp, however, you'll be screaming for all chemicals to be banned immediately as they are killing us, along with the flora and fauna of the planet. Obviously, the chemical manufacturers' opinion is different, but perhaps we should look towards the long standing and respected World Health Organisation (WHO) where scientific reasoning is delivered without drama.
In the USA, the Government's Environmental Protection Agency classifies chemical pollutants based on toxicity to man and the environment; Glyphosate is considered to be completely safe at levels below 700 parts per billion (ppb, or micrograms/L).
WHO state that, because of its low toxicity, the health-based value for Glyphosate is many orders of magnitude higher than concentrations usually found in drinking-water. Under normal conditions, therefore, the presence of Glyphosate in drinking-water does not represent a hazard to human health. For this reason, the establishment of a guideline value for Glyphosate is not deemed necessary.
So, how do the bureaucrats in Brussels come to the decision that Glyphosate needs to be banned? Simply because they have set an 'across the board' level for pesticides found in water at 1 part per billion. This is not based on scientific toxicological testing but, instead, is an imposed regulatory standard for all pesticides, regardless of the toxicological profile. Even set with such a low limit, there have been no confirmed instances of Glyphosate in excess of the standard in finished drinking water. Yet the EU is still pushing to ban the only effective means of keeping weeds at bay.
In the last few weeks, moss-killers have come under the spotlight, too. Under new EU legislation, they are now classed as pesticides instead of biocides, which means that there is very little product left in the market that can openly market itself as suitable for purpose.
There will be more information published in the coming months on what the Industry can do to try and reverse these recommendations, so please keep watching to see how you can be involved.