THE East Metropolitan Regional Council’s (EMRC) trial of alternatives to spraying glyphosate is a step in the right direction, says leading environmentalist Jane Bremmer.
The Alliance for Clean Environment chairwoman said the overall cost of new technologies was not easily identified but there were health risks associated with continued chemical use.
The EMRC’s current weed management trial, named ‘steaming to success’ aims to assess the effectiveness of alternative weed treatments compared to traditional methods.
The trial ran from June 2016 to July 2017 and its results are currently being assessed with the final report due later this year.
The trial has been welcomed by Ms Bremmer who said glyphosate had a high energy cost to manufacture and also a severe health and environmental cost.
“These costs are not generally accounted for by local governments and includes the residues of glyphosate and its by-product in the environment,” she said.
“Steam weed management may be a little more expensive at first if using a contractor but over time will demonstrate superior economic and ecological outcomes.”
Currently the EMRC trial does not include a cost comparison between glyphosate and other herbicide free alternatives, as this was outside the scope of their funding.
But the cities of Swan and Kalamunda, and the Shire of Mundaring told Echo News cost was a factor that would need to be considered when deciding on the adoption of new technologies.
Mundaring Shire President David Lavell said the cost effectiveness of weed control techniques was a significant consideration given the large area of land the shire managed.
City of Swan chief executive officer Mike Foley said while cost inevitably played a part, the city based its weed control and eradication methods primarily on effectiveness.
“The methods used by the city depend on a number of factors such as the season, the density of the vegetation and the weed type,” he said.
“However the city uses herbicide free methods whereever possible and up to 70 per cent of the city’s weed control is herbicide free.
“The city hopes to trial the steam wand at Yagan Memorial Park later this year.”
City of Kalamunda chief executive officer Rhonda Hardy said it was simplistic to compare costs for steam against chemical control given the number of methods applied to any one weed species across its annual works program to manage its park, streetscapes and natural areas.
She said the city took its responsibilities seriously in protecting their soil, groundwater and ecosystems and weed control methods were carefully applied.
Last month, the Shire of Mundaring reassessed its use of the common herbicide glyphosate following the release of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) review of scientific evidence.
The AVPMA and the Australian Department of Health’s Office of Chemical Safety concluded glyphosate did not cause cancer or pose a genotoxic risk to humans.
Mundaring Shire President David Lavell said council resolved in June to continue using glyphosate in accordance with product specifications, as well as continuing to trial other weed control methods.
“We understand that some residents have concerns about the use of herbicides but overall, the community expects the shire to effectively manage weeds.”
Cr Lavell said the shire also carried out manual weed removal and had trialled high pressure steam and other methods.
However, he said other methods generally took significantly longer and had limitations where they could be used.
But Ms Bremmer questioned health reassurances based on the advice of the APVMA review of scientific evidence.
She said the APVMA was a predominantly industry funded body that operated on a cost recovery model, with a minor budgetary contribution from the Federal Government.
“This leads to a serious potential conflict of interest as the industry pays for its regulations and they expect results.”
Ms Bremmer said the APVMA was also significantly funded by Monsanto, the manufacturer of their multibillion dollar earning product Roundup.
Earlier this year, Monsanto was taken to court by the US state of California and ordered to put a warning label on all Roundup within California from next year to state its ingredients were known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.
In a statement, the EMRC said it was encouraged with the preliminary results of the trial of alternative methods of weed treatment.
“We anticipate that with any new technology further advancement will continue to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.”
By Andrew Carter