The Malta Independent 1 February 2023, Wednesday
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Naxxar local council to ban use of herbicides to control weeds

Malta Independent Sunday, 22 December 2013, 09:35 Last update: about 10 years ago

The Naxxar local council is planning to prohibit the use of herbicides to control weeds after a motion was presented to the council calling for its ban, while it also intends issuing a call for tender for bidders willing to abide by the council’s decision and use alternative methods to kill weeds, this newspaper has learnt.

The motion is understood to have been presented by PN councillor Pierre Sciberras.

Contacted, a council spokesman said that the current contract does not bind the contractor to use alternative methods or make any reference to chemical use, and once a new contractor is selected, the contract will stipulate so.

The motion was presented to the council calling for the ban of herbicide use as a weed control system on 8 August.

The spokesman said that due to the fact that articles and studies indicated that the use of herbicides is detrimental to health, the council took the decision to ban the use of herbicides in the village core and its surroundings.

The council said the council could not impose the ban on herbicide use on contractors as things stood. 

“Tenders for new contracts will be published in the coming weeks and they will include the necessary clauses that will not permit contractors to make use of any such chemicals/herbicides,” the council spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the mayor of St Paul’s Bay, Mario Salerno, told this newspaper that he had stopped the use of herbicides as soon as he was elected mayor.

He explained that there exist herbicides that kill specific weeds, also known as monocots, that do not destroy the plants as well, or herbicides that destroy all the weeds, referred to as dicots.

He said that he had carried out his electoral promise, that of banning their use in the locality, respecting the ecological principle since it’s bad enough that the use of such chemicals is leading to honeybee colonies being destroyed, while pregnant women exposed to such chemicals may result in birth defects.

Mr Salerno said that he has been calling for a ban on herbicide use in all localities for quite a while now, even during a conference held for members of local councils which tackled the use of herbicides.

Earlier this year, this newspaper had run a story on ‘Roundup’, a weed killer – the biggest producer of which is Monsanto – after the results of laboratory tests carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in humans were published for the first time, coincidentally the same week this newspaper was investigating reports related to the use of Roundup in Malta and its effects, after a bee keeper, who preferred not to be named, had raised the alarm with this paper.

At the time, this newspaper had learnt that one of the precautionary measures displayed on the label of the glyphosate-based weed killer used across the world, Roundup, recommends that the product is only used in fine weather and in temperatures not exceeding 25°Celsius. This argument had also been supported by the environment ministry.

The fact that the product cannot be used in temperatures exceeding 25°Celsius and that it can only be applied in fine weather had raised the question as to when the herbicide can actually be applied safely in Malta since the only time the weather is relatively calm is during the summer months when temperatures exceed 25 degrees.

The test was part of a project carried out across Europe by Friends of the Earth, which revealed that a staggering nine out of 10 people’s urine samples in Malta contained traces of glyphosate. However, doubts were cast on the study’s reliability since only 10 samples were taken in the case of Malta, and an average of 12 tests were carried out in other European countries.

Samples from 18 countries across Europe were analysed for residues of glyphosate and the metabolite AMPA using a new GC-MSMS method. Twelve samples were taken each from Belgium and Switzerland, 11 from Latvia, eight from The Netherlands and 10 from each of the following: UK, France, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Germany, Cyprus, Georgia, Spain, and Poland.

At the time, the ministry had explained that the product in question is legally authorised as a herbicide and any professional in the field using such products must hold a valid licence issued by the authority to use plant protection products while having to abide by the conditions mentioned on the label.

The Maghtab Residents’ Association told this newspaper that until last week, the weed alongside Triq is-Salina was sprayed with the poisonous weed killer.

Glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient, has been linked to birth defects in humans, birds and amphibians, as well as to cancer, endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, and reproductive and developmental damage in mammals.

The association said: “We do not want our doorsteps contaminated with poisons.”

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