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Other Herbicides are Available

March 8th 2016

The world continues to obsess about glyphosate:

The EU has announced that it is likely to renew the licence to use glyphosate.

While Greenpeace EU’s Food Policy Director called for an “exit strategy from chemical pesticides”.

Although it doesn’t point to glyphosate directly, a study from Argentina suggests that people living in areas of heavy agriculture may be more likely than the national average to die of cancer. It’s unclear too whether the study shows any difference in overall mortality rates or life expectancy – or whether it compensates for differences between rural and city living.

In other news, the US food agency the FDA has announced that they will be testing foods for glyphosate.

To be clear, Defra and other agencies in the UK already regularly test for pesticide residues in food, including glyphosate. Food testing may also have additional significance in the US, where GMO crops including soybean are widely grown – allowing the crops to survive being sprayed with pesticides and potentially increasing residual content.

So where does Japanese Knotweed Solutions stand in all of this?

Well, first of all, we have a duty of care to our employees, our clients and to the public. We take that seriously, employing and continuously reviewing stringent safety measures. We also monitor information about the substances and the equipment that we use, ensuring we maintain the highest standards through our continued individual or company memberships of bodies like the Amenity Forum, BASIS, INNSA, IOSH and SSIP providers like SMAS and SafeContractor.

What’s more, we are at the forefront of best practice in the invasive species industry, contributing to and complying with the INNSA Code of Practice, as regulated by the Property Ombudsman service.

JKSL’s CEO Mike Clough regularly delivers CPD presentations around the UK, hosts our annual seminar and provides updates to clients and suppliers alike on new developments in our industry.

Japanese Knotweed Solutions is not only open to a herbicide-free future, but has been actively looking towards the possibility for some years. Much of JKSL’s work is already carried out without the use of pesticides and we continue to implement and advise our clients on the requirements of the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations.

What’s more, JKSL continues to offer our patented MeshTech system for controlling Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed, which can only become more popular in a future where existing chemistry is being withdrawn and new products are slow to come to market.

The key to such bold proposals as those from Greenpeace is to ensure that each step focusses on what is best for people and our environment over the long term – not just a short-sighted view that anything that causes cancer must be immediately banned.

As Operations Manager, I look at a lot of our Health and Safety documents in detail, and from a safety point of view, there are several substances that it would be ideal to remove from the business – however, safer alternatives are not available. You might be surprised to learn that the chemicals at the top of my list of hazards are not herbicides but actually petrol (and diesel). Petrol is a class 1 carcinogen (where glyphosate is currently classed as 2a) and what’s more, it poses a risk of harm to the unborn child.

I would be interested to know of the people who are currently fretting about glyphosate: do they wear gloves when they fill up the car? Do they ensure they wash their hands afterwards (especially if they just filled up on the way into the supermarket)? No criticism – just curiosity…

Our current situation is not one where pesticides are being used for fun, and in many cases, there are no safer, effective alternatives (see Azulam). Pesticides are a cornerstone of modern agriculture around the world, and it is no exaggeration to state that they are used in life-or-death situations in airfields, railways and highways where accidents can cause tragic loss of life.

There is a balance – and if you push on one side, there will be consequences on the other. While it can be argued that many of these consequences are manageable, many of them are not insignificant. Others, like food price rises, could have globally significant impacts.

The invasive species industry would survive without herbicides and I am confident that JKSL would continue to prosper – however, impacts on biodiversity, flooding and crucial industries from housebuilding to transport infrastructure must feature in any sensible road map to a (more) chemical-free future.

 

Chris Oliver
Operations Manager
Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd