I first became acquainted with Glyphosate through Katherine Hamnett when there was publicity about the London Borough of Hackney spraying its meadow in London Fields with Glyphosate despite meadows usually being self-managing. It was Katherine Hamnett who brought the issue to the attention of the public.
I then began enquiring about Glyphosate, only to find it was being sprayed on the estate where I lived. I then understood why the roses were growing deformed and in a state of stress. The worst use of Glyphosate was when Phillip Morris aerial sprayed his tobacco fields in Argentina which caused devastation to the local population.
The initial step was to find out the usage of Glyphosate by Tower Hamlets and the concern on spraying poisons in the borough. Using a series of Freedom of Information requests, Tower Hamlets Council stated the legality of the herbicide, saying it was no worse than drinking a glass of orange juice or taking an aspirin, which was ludicrous.
After various replies from Tower Hamlets, the mission was to inform the general public that poisoning the borough was not a good idea by utilising all the social media I could muster. As Chairman of The East London Garden Society, already an established figure in this part of London, I became a person to be listened to.
I received sympathetic emails from councillors and persons within the borough, so a local petition was raised to stop Tower Hamlets spraying with Glyphosate. Once the message was spread, residents became more interested and emailed the Council. At the last borough hustings for the local elected Mayor of the borough, many questions were asked yet not one candidate had knowledge of Glyphosate. They all said if elected it would be banned in the borough. Mayor Biggs stated, “Of course, if the science is there it will be banned”.
Tower Hamlets was once one of the most robust councils to protect the spraying of poisons. Information on Glyphosate and how it damaged societies, was sent to every councillor in the borough. The turning point for many, was the California judgement on it being instrumental in causing cancer and since then many other conditions have been found, mainly through the Argentina disaster.
We would not have been able to reach this point with Tower Hamlets Council trailing other methods of unwanted plant eradication if we had not brought many councillors and local residents with us. It was important to stress over and over again the worst aspects of Glyphosate. In August 2020 Tower Hamlets is to make a decision on the banning of Glyphosate and find an alternative.
My view is that we should all work together, whether it be Oswaldtwistle, Wrexham or Totnes in Devon, to prevent the use of Glyphosate. The prevailing wind is with us to protect the environment and with likeminded people we are able to make a change. We will know the decision of Tower Hamlets Council in August 2020, but it looks hopeful that what was once one of the most insistent councils in the country on the use of Glyphosate, will ban it.
Geoff Juden, Chairman, The East London Garden Society