Petition to ban unnecessary pesticides

Professor Dave Goulding

A petition started by Professor Dave Goulding and supported by a host of conservation and health charities is calling for the UK Government to ban the use of pesticides in urban areas and to end their sale for use in gardens.

The petition, supported by RSPB, PAN UK, Friends of the Earth, Parkinson’s UK, Alliance for Cancer Prevention, Garden Organic, Soil Association, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Wildlife Gardening Forum, Real Farming Trust, Songbird Survival and many others, can be found online here.

The petition, launched on 5 August 2021 has already reached over 43,000 signatories. The launch coincided with the publication of Silent Earth, a new book outlining how the decline of wild bees and other insects is a potential catastrophe for us all.

Professor Goulding said “It’s simply crazy to spray poisons in our streets, parks and gardens for cosmetic purposes, where they harm bees and other wildlife and pose a risk to human health. We rely on insects to deliver a range of vital ‘ecosystem services’ such as pollination, and recycling of corpses & dung. They are also food for many larger animals and birds. Without them, our ecosystem will collapse.”

Professor Goulson explains in his new book that thirteen UK bee species have already gone extinct and Britain’s butterfly population has halved since the 1970s, with one in ten butterfly species becoming extinct.

As well as listing alarming evidence of the extent of insect declines in the UK, Silent Earth presents a range of solutions. It argues that one key way to help combat insect decline is to encourage wildlife in urban areas. The UK’s 22 million gardens, plus parks, road verges and other green spaces could form a network of wildlife-friendly habitats. However, this will only work if we stop spraying pesticides on these spaces.

At present, many local councils spray pesticides on pavements, paths and in parks, and even in children’s playgrounds. The most commonly used pesticide, Roundup, is harmful to bees, damages soil health, and is strongly suspected of causing non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in humans.

Similarly, many homeowners buy and use pesticides in their gardens, with no training, and often without wearing protective clothing. An extensive range of pesticides is readily available to consumers from garden centres, DIY chains, and supermarkets, including chemicals that are classified as carcinogens and neurotoxins.

According to Prof Goulson, none of this pesticide use is necessary or desirable. It makes no contribution to food production and safe and sustainable alternatives for weed control are available, where necessary. 

Some countries have already taken steps towards banning pesticides to protect insect and human health. France banned the use of all synthetic pesticides in public spaces in 2017 and then banned garden use from 2019.

In Canada, 170 cities and towns are pesticide-free, some of them having been so for 30 years. More than 70 towns and cities across the UK have already taken major steps towards going pesticide-free, including London boroughs, Manchester, Derry in Northern Ireland and North Lanarkshire in Scotland. These and other examples from around the world prove beyond doubt that these chemicals are unnecessary.

Pesticide use in urban areas is also a unpopular. Public polling commissioned by Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) and Sum of Us reveals that 68% of people think that their local schools, parks, playgrounds and other open spaces should be pesticide-free.

Josie Cohen from PAN UK said “Increasing numbers of local councils and amateur gardeners across the UK are moving away from using toxic pesticides and instead adopting the many safe and sustainable alternatives that are available. Ending pesticide use in urban areas and gardens is an achievable goal that would be a massive win for the health of both humans and wildlife.”

Stephanie Morren, senior policy officer at the RSPB said “Nature is in crisis, with 15% of UK species at risk of extinction and is getting squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces. But pesticide-free gardens and urban green spaces would provide vitally important homes for our incredible wildlife and help revive our world.”

“We hope this petition leads to public debate that will pave the way for government, local authorities and others to tackle situations where pesticides are used unnecessarily, such as in urban areas.”

The petition, supported by RSPB, PAN UK, Friends of the Earth, Parkinson’s UK, Alliance for Cancer Prevention, Garden Organic, Soil Association, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Wildlife Gardening Forum, Real Farming Trust, Songbird Survival and many others, can be found online here.

2 thoughts on “Petition to ban unnecessary pesticides

  1. This problem of using pesticides is horrifying as is revealed in this article and the fact that other countries have already banned them puts shame on the UK

    Liked by 1 person

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