The news that Kimberley City Council (KCC) will be investigating alternatives to the use of herbicides this coming fall is a positive development regarding this important issue.
By itself, however, this is merely a small step towards addressing the health and environmental impacts of the use of these toxic products, which are now widely understood to be probable carcinogens, and to pose other serious health risks for humans and wildlife. And, with your investigation not scheduled to take place until after the full season of summer spraying is finished, this planned investigation does not address the immediate risks that the ongoing use of these products continues to pose, in the meantime.
Municipal councils have an obligation to observe the precautionary principle, when faced with issues such as this one that have direct and significant impacts upon the health and welfare of their residents. This principle’s fundamental rule is that whenever the potential for significant harm is present, decisions should be made so that this risk is avoided, and that this avoidance should only be reversed if and when the potential risk can be proven to not exist.
In this case, it is clear that council has now identified that the City’s ongoing use of herbicides poses such potential risks. Therefore, the correct course of action for KCC to take in the meantime, is to issue an immediate moratorium on all use of herbicides. This matter is one where respect for the precautionary principle supercedes lesser factors such as resistance to changing old practices, or pressure from vested interests that conflict with the wider public good.
We are therefore hereby asking that Kimberley City Council issue an immediate and complete moratorium on the use of herbicides, until the investigation scheduled for the fall has been concluded and a long-term decision can be implemented.
Rob Krausz and Sandrine Roy