500 Sydney Outdoor Workers Hold Walkout Over RoundUp Health Concerns
A town council in Sydney says it will start to trial alternative herbicides after 500 workers went on strike due to safety concerns over glyphosate-based Roundup, according to the Australian Associated Press.
The outdoor staff in Blacktown, a western suburb of Sydney, refused to continue spraying glyphosate and urged management to follow the lead of the several other city councils that have phased out Roundup and started to use other herbicides.
The strike started last Wednesday after management ordered six staff members to either use Roundup or find other work, according to the United Services Union, which represents the striking workers, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"Outdoor staff responded by halting work and returning to their depots, leaving more than 10,000 bins uncollected," a union statement said, as reported by Channel 7 News in Australia.
The workers decided to continue their protest on Thursday.
Blacktown City Council sought an urgent hearing in the Industrial Relations Commissions on Thursday morning after thousands of garbage bins were not collected and some outdoor services were disrupted.
After the meeting, the council announced on Thursday afternoon it would implement a trial of a "viable alternate weed control product," as The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The five-month trial will compare the efficacy of an alternate organic product used by some of the town's outdoor crews, while others will continue to use a glyphosate product.
The union called the transition to an organic product a "win for workers," who returned to work.
"Weed spraying is a common task for outdoor council staff, so it is understandable that workers have been deeply concerned by international legal cases which found a strong link between the use of glyphosate products and developing cancer," United Services Union secretary Graeme Kelly said in a statement, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Kelly had earlier said that governments, companies and individuals around the world were abandoning glyphosate-based herbicides because of growing evidence that it causes cancer.
Yet, the Blacktown City Council rejected that argument. In a statement, the council said Australia's pesticides authority, which states that glyphosate is safe for humans, animals and the environment, guided its decisions. The statement made a point that no regulatory agency in the world considers it to be a carcinogen, as the Australian Associated Press reported.
The massive $2 billion jury-award to a California couple who claimed Roundup caused their non-Hodgkins lymphoma prompted the Cancer Council of Australia to warn people who regularly use Roundup that they may be increasing their risk of cancer. Still, Roundup remains the most widely used herbicide in Australia and its use is unrestricted, according to Channel 7 News.
Blacktown's response to create a trial is the suburb's first step in weaning itself off glyphosate-based herbicides.
"Council is continually monitoring the situation and will act according to the recommendations of the regulator and on the findings that result from the trial," Blacktown's Mayor Stephen Bali said in a statement, as the Australian Associated Press reported.
"We have agreed to trial viable alternatives. What is important for everyone to understand is that council will not place employees or members of the public at risk."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jake Johnson
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