Public spaces should be green, safe and healthy for all

Written by Leo de Montaignac on 21 August 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

Isn’t it time we all go herbicide-free in public and urban places, asks Leo de Montaignac.

Photo credit: Pixabay


A statement’s been made. Two weeks ago, a San Francisco court ruled in favour of Dewayne Johnson against Monsanto for $289m.

In doing so it set a precedent for any public entity or organisation continuing to use glyphosate in public spaces like parks, schools & playgrounds. This ruling implies that entities could now be held liable by either the public or their employees should they choose to continue using glyphosate.

It’s a firm nod to the growing concern around the safety of using glyphosate in public places – a debate that’s raged for years. With 4000 plaintiffs waiting in the wings with similar stories to that of Dewayne Johnson, this isn’t a debate which is going to be silenced anytime soon.  And it’s certainly one that could cost Monsanto, and its new owners Bayer, very dear indeed.


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There are two main debates that need to be considered within the context of this story. The first is focused on the agricultural sector.

This is a far bigger debate – and one we do not wish to comment on here other than to say - until there’s a viable alternative available for farmers, the questions surrounding food security and how the world’s growing population will be fed without the use of a chemical that’s become a firm staple for farmers will remain unanswered.  

There are numerous alternatives out there, but none that have had sufficient time to scale enough yet and prove themselves a viable alternative.  However, within a few years this will probably have changed.

The second debate – which we do want to focus on – which we believe needs an imminent answer - is the one surrounding the use of glyphosate in public and urban spaces.  

The recent court ruling in San Francisco directly affects and sets precedent for this debate. At Weedingtech, it was our vision back in 2011 to develop a product that addressed the uncertainty surrounding the controversial chemical glyphosate and its future use in public and urban spaces.

"This ruling implies that entities could now be held liable by either the public or their employees should they choose to continue using glyphosate"

Whether it is or isn’t safe to use is not for us to say, that’s something we’ll leave to the researchers and scientists.  However, we believed the controversy around glyphosate would continue – in fact, we believed it would worsen – and we believed the market was crying out for a viable alternative which is why we developed Foamstream.  

Our primary objective with Foamstream was to give those organisations wanting to reduce their glyphosate use in public spaces, or move away from it altogether, an effective, affordable, and easy to use way to do so.

Our mission was - and remains - to provide the best alternative to traditional chemical herbicides like glyphosate. Our alternative is aimed at any organisation who can’t use glyphosate for legislative reasons, or who doesn’t want to use it due to their individual motives, whatever they may be.  

And we wanted to empower those organisations to make the change easy, cost-effective, and one that requires little to no ongoing support.

Furthermore, we felt there were numerous functional weaknesses with glyphosate that we could address at the same time. 

As anyone who is familiar with glyphosate will know it has to be applied in the correct weather conditions, results aren’t instantaneous, and the operators who apply it have to be licensed and dress in protective clothing.

"With a fantastic alternative to glyphosate now working in public places – which can be used by any organisation who wants to move away from glyphosate – isn’t it time we all go herbicide-free in public and urban places?"

That’s why we developed Foamstream to be functional in all weather conditions empowering our customers to use it whenever they want, not when the weather determines. This frees them up to make simple decisions around planning labour allocation and avoid expensive downtime.  

And because the results are instantaneous, and because the workers who apply it don’t need licenses or protective clothing, it’s simple to roll out making the transition easy, often boosting employee morale as they work in far more enjoyable conditions in normal clothing and in an unrestricted manner at all times of day.  

When employees are happy and do a great job the organisations they work for benefit too – at least that’s been the experience of our customers. We now have over 300 organisations around Europe and North America using Foamstream and benefitting from its advantages every day.

So, our challenge is this; with a fantastic alternative to glyphosate now working in public places – which can be used by any organisation who wants to move away from glyphosate – isn’t it time we all go herbicide-free in public and urban places?  

Let’s start by phasing it out in highly sensitive areas like our parks, schools and town centres while we figure out how we can reduce our reliance on it in agriculture. This seems a sensible compromise, providing a quick win in public spaces while we work on the harder win which is what we do in agriculture.

Our research shows this is what the public want and will probably now demand. Enacting it would be a huge win for regulators with the public because they want to see action taken now.  

After all, would you want your children, family, friends or pets exposed to a chemical like glyphosate in their local town or park that may cause them serious damage, especially when there is absolutely no need for them to be?

About the author

Leo de Montaignac is CEO of leading herbicide-free weed control company, Weedingtech Ltd.

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