Why Pesticides Should Be Banned from Gardens and Urban Areas

It seems crazy to me that we still use toxic chemicals in our gardens, parks, playgrounds and streets. Pesticides are massively damaging to insects and other wildlife, as well as causing an array of human health issues. Having read Dave Goulson’s brilliant book Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse, which explains the terrifying impact pesticide use has had on our insect populations, I am convinced pesticides should be banned for use in private gardens and public spaces.

Flying insects, particularly pollinators such as bees, have declined by a staggering 76% since 1990 (according to a 2017 study). We urgently need to do something about this dramatic decline in insects and provide wildlife-friendly spaces for bees, butterflies and all insects which the complex web of life relies on for survival. Here we look at some of the reasons why we need to stop using pesticides and share some eco-actions you can take.

Reasons to Ban Pesticides

They are harmful to human health – for example, glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, one of the most widely used weedkilling pesticides, is suspected of causing non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in humans. Many pesticides easily obtainable from garden centres, DIY stores and some supermarkets contain chemicals that are classified as carcinogens and neurotoxins. Despite this, anyone can buy these products and use them without training or protective clothing in their gardens. What’s more, our local councils regularly spray them to kill weeds on pavements, roadside verges and even in children’s play areas.

They destroy biodiversity – in urban areas where all weeds have been destroyed and only grass grows, there is nowhere for insects and birds to live or forage for food. Pesticides harm bees and other insects. When pesticides are used on hard surfaces such as pavements, they can run off and contaminate water courses and harm aquatic life. When certain pesticides get in the soil they persist and affect soil health well into the future.

Pesticides aren’t necessary – spraying pesticides in our streets and gardens doesn’t contribute to food production and safe, eco-friendly methods of weed control exist. Or we could just learn to love our weeds and let them be!

Bans are already working – the French stopped using synthetic pesticides in public spaces back in 2017 and in gardens in 2019. A similar ban by the UK government is long over-due and a no-brainer if we value our health and that of the natural world. In addition to the national ban in France, in Canada there are 170 pesticide-free towns and cities, some of which stopped using pesticides decades ago, which proves these chemicals aren’t needed. The good news is that more than 70 UK towns and cities are taking steps to go pesticide-free, with the support of PAN UK (Pesticide Action Network UK).

Eco-Actions to Stop Pesticide Use

Sign this petition – to protect the environment and human health, we need an immediate ban on garden and urban pesticide use. There’s currently a petition campaign to get our government to do just that. The deadline for the petition is 26 January 2022 so please act fast and add your name here.

Write to your MP – use your voice to tell your MP your concerns about pesticide use and urge them to work towards getting a ban.

Contact your council – unfortunately, given the appalling track record of the government on taking action to help the environment, a national ban probably won’t happen any time soon. We don’t have time to waste, so in the meantime, act local and ask your council to go pesticide-free by writing to your local councillor or using this email template here.

Stop using pesticides in your garden – learn to garden with nature rather than against it. See our tips on avoiding pesticides in our eco-friendly gardening tips post.

Speak to your neighbours – it amazes me how oblivious some people are about the harm using pesticides in their garden is doing. If your neighbours have a habit of using slug pellets or spraying weeds, why not have a conversation about why you no longer do this and explain the benefits (more wildlife, less work and less cost!). They may not realise pesticides harm more than just the pest or weed they are aimed at.

Apparently, there are 22 million private gardens in Britain, plus countless parks and urban areas. There’s an opportunity here to make a huge part of the country better for wildlife and human health, simply by ditching pesticides.

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