Herbicide Complacency

Herbicide Complacency

Our Kuranda property was recently sprayed with the herbicide Roundup by Council workers without our authorisation. Our property adjoins Jumrum Creek which ultimately flows to the Great Barrier Reef via the Barron River. Due to the ecological sensitivity of our property and region, we initiated a formal complaint through the Queensland Ombudsman. Mareeba Shire Council’s actions and subsequent dismissive response reveals a common belief that Roundup is innocuous. While this complacency has been fostered through decades of aggressive marketing by agrochemical company Monsanto, there is mounting research suggesting Roundup is toxic not only to the environment, but to human health.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified Roundup’s declared principle ingredient ‘glyphosate’ as "probably carcinogenic to humans"[1]. The European Chemicals Agency has classified it “a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects"[2]. After bitter division in 2017 the European Union approved a limited 5-year licence for glyphosate, with France declaring a ban within 3 years. Currently, more than 700 US farmers, landscapers & gardeners are involved in a lawsuit against Monsanto claiming that exposure to glyphosate caused their cancers.[3]

Tests for glyphosate routinely find traces in soil, water, food and human urine. A long-term US study indicated a 1200% increase in glyphosate levels in urine over a 20-year period since the mid-1990s[4]. As glyphosate is the declared “active principle” in Roundup, it’s the only one tested for regulatory purposes. However, research suggests that the so-called “inert”substances in Roundup are around 1,000 times more toxic[5]. Monsanto’s lead toxicologist acknowledged that “you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen...we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement[6].

Since our experience with Roundup we’ve noticed Council workers (themselves unprotected) spraying in public spaces - around playgrounds, waterways, nature strips and footpaths. While we all appreciate Council’s work in maintaining our public spaces, we need to prioritise the health of our community and future generations. In 2015 Byron Shire Council resolved to be chemical-free by late-2018 and now use steam weeders as part of the solution[7]. Mareeba Shire Council owns one of these steam weeders, though hasn’t yet introduced policies to transition away from poisons.

As we know from asbestos & cigarettes, our regulatory processes lag tragically behind research. We invite you to join us in initiating a planned transition in partnership with our local council - from poisons to sustainable weed management. For more information (including full references) please refer to Friends of the Earth FNQ (foefnq.org.au) & Kuranda Regional Planning Group (kurandaregion.org).



We know this interests you! Please send us photos or stories of spraying with a notice of where and when - via our Facebook page or PM us. Also if anyone else in the Kuranda and Tableland area has had a similar experience with council spraying, please contact us.

Next Meeting following this article!! : Thursday 26 April, 2018 6.30pm via Zoom or phone link. Ring Margie on 0403214422 to find out how to join our discussion from the comfort of your home! Everyone welcome.



[1] International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (2017). Some Organophosphate Insecticides and Herbicides - IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, IARC Monographs. Vol 112. Retrieved: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol112/mono112.pdf

[2] European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) (15 Mar, 2017). Glyphosate not classified as a carcinogen by ECHA. Retrieved: https://echa.europa.eu/-/glyphosate-not-classified-as-a-carcinogen-by-echa

[3] Rosenblatt, J. (14 Mar, 2018).  Monsanto's Cancer Fight Judge Pictures Weed Killer Showers. Retrieved: https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/2018/03/14/monsanto-judge-pictures-weed-killer-showers-amid-cancer-debate

[4]Mills, P., Kania-Korwel, I., Fagan, J., McEvoy, L., Laughlin, G. & Barrett-Connor, E. (2017). Excretion of the Herbicide Glyphosate in Older Adults Between 1993 and 2016. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol 318: No. 16. Retrieved: https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/research/centers/integrativehealth/Documents/jama_Mills_2017_ld_170034[10][1][2][1][1].pdf

[5] Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Spiroux de Vendômois, J. & Séralini, G-E. (2014). Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles. BioMed Research International. Retrieved: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955666/

[6] Farmer, D. (Monsanto internal email communication, 22 Nov, 2003). Retrieved: http://baumhedlundlaw.com/pdf/monsanto-documents/27-Internal-Monsanto-Email-You-Cannot-Say-That-Roundup-is-not-a-Carcinogen.pdf 

[7] Byron uses steam to weed without chemicals (19 Oct, 2017). Retrieved:  https://www.echo.net.au/2017/10/byron-uses-steam-weed-chemicals/

Harris, M. (02 Dec, 2017). Weed killing is a steamy affair for Council - 02Dec17. Retrieved: https://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/weed-killing-is-a-steamy-affair-for-council/3280194/