Will City’s Parks Department Stop use of Monsanto’s Roundup After International Report Declares Chemical a Carcinogen?

No to RoundUp in parks, public space, at all

Environmental advocacy groups, Beyond Pesticides and the No Spray Coalition are calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to “stop the use of the country’s most popular herbicide, glyphosate, in the wake of an international ruling that it causes cancer in humans.”

In addition, the No Spray Coalition, is calling on the New York City Parks Department to finally halt the use of glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto and sold as Roundup, in our city parks. The No Spray Coalition has, for the last fifteen years, advocated against pesticide spraying for West Nile virus in New York City and beyond and other forms of pesticide use.

For years, both groups have been seeking to curtail the use of Roundup. There certainly has been no lack of data on its damaging effects. Last week, the release of a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has brought renewed serious attention to glyphosate as it “released its finding concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies.”

For over fifteen years, the Parks Department has been using Roundup in our city’s parks. Work that previously was done by hand by Parks Department workers, pulling up “weeds” (which should perhaps be revisited to begin with) was, for financial reasons, shifted to the routine method of spraying the herbicide glyphosate.

Mitchel Cohen from the No Spray Coalition writes:

The No Spray Coalition against pesticides has for 14 years opposed the application of glyphosate (Roundup), particularly on sidewalks around schools and parks. In response to our letters and meetings, the City did add a colored dye to the chemicals to warn people that it had been applied, so if you see blue or yellow dye on grassy areas, between sidewalk cracks, etc., you know to avoid it. However, young kids see that dye and stomp through it, roll around it it, ride their bikes through it, etc. It is an ATTRACTOR to children, despite the intent.

The City Parks Department personnel has been cut by 80 percent over the last 20 years. So where workers used to weed areas by hand, the layoffs accelerated the use of chemical herbicides to get the weeding done.

Around 10 years ago, a group of us met with former Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julian Spiegel, and he agreed with us to at least have announcements made over the speakers in every public school if glyphosate — or any herbicide — was applied in the general vicinity. This seemed to be a cost-effective no-brainer. But, as far as I know, it never happened despite the agreement with Spiegel (who seemed to be a caring “good guy”). His right-hand man, a biochemical “specialist”, engaged us in a debate over glyphosate, saying how “safe” the chemical is despite the written and very thorough information provided from Greenpeace and Beyond Pesticides (one of the co-Plaintiffs in the NoSpray Coalition’s lawsuit against the City, which was settled seven years after filing) showing it to be a dangerous and potential carcinogen.

Those meetings with Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Spiegel were ten years ago. Now, finally, we’re vindicated by an important international agency which has condemned the use of glyphosate, but how many people have been injured in the meantime?

Cohen, who lives in Brooklyn, adds that, “Brooklyn remains the most heavily pesticided and herbicided county in the entire state, a situation exacerbated by the switch to chemical pest controls to substitute for the workers who were laid off.”

Beyond Pesticides states:

Glyphosate is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by EPA and industry and is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children’s playing fields.

However, IARC’s new classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A “probable” carcinogen finds that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency considered the findings from an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel report, along with several recent studies in making its conclusion.

The agency also notes that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).

“With the cancer classification on top of the documented weed resistance to glyphosate and water contamination resulting from its use, continued reliance on glyphosate is irresponsible from a public health and environmental perspective,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “We have effective sustainable organic management systems that do not utilize glyphosate and it’s time that EPA and USDA recognized its responsibility to move away from hazardous and unnecessary pesticides,” he continued.

Ironically, EPA in 1985 originally classified glyphosate as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humansbased on tumors in laboratory animals, but changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in human years later, most likely due to industry influence, allowing the chemical to be the most widely used pesticides in the U.S.

USDA has contributed to its growth by deregulating crops, including the vast majority of corn and soybeans, that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the chemical. In recent years, weeds have exhibited resistance to glyphosate and its efficacy has been called into question. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways especially in the Midwestern states and the Mississippi River valley. Ecological data also reports that glyphosate and glyphosate formulated products are toxic to aquatic organisms, and is extremely lethal to amphibians.

It is beyond time for both national and local agencies to re-think – and stop – the use of Monsanto’s Roundup in the best interest of the health of people, wildlife, animals and the environment.

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Why is the Parks Department Defending Continued Use of Roundup Pesticide in NYC Parks?, September 5, 2014

In related news:

Sign the Petition: Tell Federal Agencies to Stop Glyphosate Use Now!

Lobbyist claims Monsanto Roundup ingredient Glyphosate safe to drink, then refuses to drink it via BoingBoing, March 27, 2015

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