Roundup is a horrendous substance, there is so much evidence out there on its impact on human health. It feels like the right time to do this
Managers of supermarkets and garden centres might be surprised to see stocks of the weedkiller Roundup vanishing from their shelves next week. The reason will become clear when customers put them on the spot as to why they are stocking the controversial product.
This is the plan for Christie’s national day of action on 6 September. Christie's 20 years of campaigning have seen him dressed as vegetables, heckling prime ministers and arrested and charged with criminal damage. He has rallied against the slaughter of animals during the Foot and Mouth crisis, the use of genetically modified seeds and the Iraq war. But, he claims that support for his anti-Roundup campaign has been overwhelming and more than he has previously experienced.
Christie will be leading the charge in his local town of Barnstaple, where he plans to stage a protest in every supermarket. The use of the herbicide leaves Christie “quivering with anger”, he said. “It’s believed to be a carcinogen, it needs to be exposed. Roundup is a horrendous substance, there is so much evidence out there on its impact on human health. It feels like the right time to do this.
“Let’s roundup the Roundup and banish it - and the companies who make it - from our beautiful planet once and for all,” he told The Ecologist.
The controversial weedkiller is in the spotlight again as a crucial decision on its future in Europe is set to be made in the autumn. The European Commission is considering whether to extend the substance’s licence. It was originally due to make a decision last year, but instead granted a temporary extension days before the licence expired.
In May, EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis proposed a ten-year extension to the approval of the herbicide, originally patented by Monsanto for Roundup but now manufactured by some 20 companies.
Significant pressure has been building up on both sides of the argument ahead of the licence renewal deadline of 15 December. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research body of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
Several local authorities in the UK, including Brighton and Hove, Frome and Edinburgh have already banned the use of glyphosate in public spaces. This is in line with a global trend, with restrictions on glyphosate introduced in ten countries in Europe, eight out of ten Canadian provinces, multiple US states and cities, Sri Lanka and Colombia, according to Pesticide Action Network UK.
A petition calling for glyphosate to be banned across the EUhas gained support from more than 1,300,000 European citizens, meaning that the European Commission must formally respond.
However, the European Chemicals Agency, which was asked by the commission to investigate the safety of glyphosate, cleared the substance of having direct links to cancer.
A spokesman for Monsanto, the largest manufacturer of Roundup, said that when glyphosate had been reviewed by regulators including the European Food Safety Authority and the US Environmental Protection Agency, they had found it to be non-carcinogenic. A joint report by the World Health Organisation and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation upheld these conclusions, he added.
Christie, who comes from a farming background and established one of the country's oldest permaculture gardens on his estate 20 years ago, alleges that research carried out by regulators is “absolutely not independent at all.”
“The criteria to work for regulators is to be pro-big business,” he said. “But I really think they’re fighting a losing battle now. I’ve been demanding long-term independent research but I don't think that is going to happen because they [the manufacturers] know their stuff is toxic.”
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and the former deputy editor of the environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @.