Following on from the presentation of a petition to stop using glyphosate weedkillers at Camden’s last full council meeting, I’ve written a joint letter to the newspapers with the petition author. This was a pledge in the Conservative manifesto in May, and I’m committed to ensuring that it’s delivered, even while we’re out of power.

We write as representatives of both the Camden Green Party and Camden Conservatives about our shared concerns about Camden Council continuing to use glyphosate-based weedkillers, which pose environmental, health, and financial risks.

Both our parties pledged to stop Camden Council using glyphosate in our local manifestos in May, while a 905-signature petition was presented to Camden Council this month to push the council to stop using glyphosate in its parks, green spaces, and estate gardens.

Camden’s Greens and Conservatives share our cross-party position because of the weight of scientific evidence that long-term public use of glyphosate is responsible for damaging the environment and harming our health. Evidence published last month shows that it is responsible for bee colony collapse: reducing pollination and harming delicate ecosystems.

Glyphosate by itself can be safe, which long lulled regulators into a false sense of security. However, its presence in mixtures increases the damaging effect to humans of other environmental toxins, which can have startling effects, including causing cancer. In August, the world’s largest producer of glyphosate was ordered to pay $289m in damages for causing cancer in users and hiding the risks.

In total, over 8,000 claims have been made against just that one company for damage done to users’ health: unleashing one of the biggest class action lawsuits in legal history. That level of potential harm is unacceptably high.

Not only would ending the use of glyphosate be good for our environment and health, but good for Camden’s finances, too. If Camden adopts a precautionary principle and stop using glyphosate now, it will protect itself from legal liability from future cases like that in August. A risk-based approach would see Camden reduce its use as the scientific and legal evidence mounts.

That’s why we were disappointed that Camden’s Cabinet member for the Environment did not take any action in response to that petition. He had a chance to follow councils including Hammersmith & Fulham, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and North Somerset in doing so.

There are dozens of alternatives to glyphosate. Camden Council uses some of them already, but continuing to expose children, council employees, and others to glyphosates at all is a mistake. Camden as a public authority should adopt a cautious approach about its own use. That means ending the use of glyphosates in Camden’s green spaces altogether.

Cllr Oliver Cooper
Leader, Camden Conservatives

Kirsten de Keyser
Petition author and Green parliamentary candidate for Holborn & St Pancras