Chemical-free Public Spaces

Concerned over the impact of commonly used pesticides on human health and the environment, local and national authorities all over the world are restricting their use. The findings in 2015 of probable carcinogenicity of glyphosate (the most commonly used herbicide of all) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)– part of the World Health Organization – has speeded the reduction of pesticide use, particularly in public spaces.

The fight-back from the agrochemical industry is intense. Authorities in the USA are intimately linked to agrochemical corporations. 2016 March 19 Dr Debra Davis, Visiting Professor of Medicine at the Hadassah Medical Center and Ondokuz Mayis University Medical Center in a paper in Academic Insights for the Thinking World (Oxford University Press)
“Thanks to a little known provision in US law governing pesticides (the overarching category defined by the EPA for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides), industry experts sit side by side with government officials in determining what is and is not toxic. In these other nations, far less cosy arrangements exist and reports of tragic illness have spurred direct and immediate actions.”

With the election of Donald Trump, agrochemical corporations are becoming bolder. Carey Gillam, writing for The Huffington Post on 31 January 2017, says “The latest move, the formation of a group called ‘Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research’ (CAPHR) clearly promotes an agenda opposite to that which its name implies. Formed this month by the American Chemistry Council, whose membership includes Monsanto and other chemical industry titans, the group’s express purpose is to discredit the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a unit of the World Health Organization made up of independent scientists. An IARC scientific team declared in March 2015 that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen after reviewing an extensive body of published research on the subject. Monsanto and friends have been harassing IARC ever since through a series of demands, threats and legal maneuvers including lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives to cut funding for IARC. The new campaign takes the assault further. On the group’s new twitter account set up on Jan. 25 2017, CAPHR has posted a string of insults against IARC scientists, accusing the experts from prestigious institutions around the world of ‘making sensational claims’, drawing conclusions ‘that can’t be trusted,’ and using ‘questionable methodologies’.

There are two other ways in which the public health of nations has been impacted by massive glyphosate use. Through the ‘War on Drugs’ carried out by the USA, which had funded and forced agrochemicals onto other nation states. And through an equally aggressive campaign to extend herbicide resistant GMO crops.

In comments associated with Dr Davis’ article, ‘Imnaha’ writes: The glyphosate “issue” is the hidden 90 percent of the GMO iceberg. Glyphosate is the Achilles heel of the industrialized food industry and they know it. That is why the industry has done everything they can to keep public focus ON labelling and OFF the fact that glyphosate is widely used (as a dessicant) on many NON GMO crops like oats, barley and sugar cane. Once it is widely recognized that your morning bowl of NON GMO Cherrios, your favourite beer or candy bar all contain glyphosate, the REAL battle will be joined. In the meantime the consumer’s only protection is to buy organic, locally sourced (if possible) food. See more

Where a country has legislated or regulated to reduce the use of herbicides for these purposes, I have included these cases because though they are not necessarily in public spaces (though with aerial spraying this is difficult to define) they will improve public health.

You will notice a thread through the case studies – the more control corporations have over government, the less likely protective legislation will be in place or enforced. Authorities in the European Union and Canadian provinces are leading in protecting their citizens from harmful pesticides. The United States and Australia, with more concern for corporate profits than for their citizens, are sadly lacking at the federal levels though municipalities are increasingly removing glyphosate from their shelves and, in many cases, using chemical-free techniques for weed control.

Glyphosate Restrictions Around the World

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