Does Natural England insist on using glyphosate or an alternative weed killer?

EM Agnew made this Freedom of Information request to Natural England

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Natural England,

Question 1
Does Natural England still stipulate in licences for killing harmful water weeds, in order to conserve aquatic habitats of great crested newts, "glyphosate weed killer" which does not contain "the surficant POEA as that has been shown to be toxic to amphibians"?

Question 2
If Natural England still insists on using glyphosate, what scientific evidence does it hold, which proves that it is not harmful to the health of humans and other animal life?

Question 3
If an alternative is now available and acceptable, (a) what is that herbicide and (b) what evidence exists which proves that it is not harmful to the health of humans and other animal life?

Background Details

These FoI questions arise from recent reports, about 11,000 litigants in the USA suing over allegations of harm to human health from Roundup, which is based on glyphosate. A jury unanimously agreed that the chemical was a "substantial factor" in causing Edwin Hardeman's cancer - non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

To gain endorsement for projects which harm wildlife, developers are the pipers calling the tune, when paying for ecological reports, which do not reveal the whole truth, about medium and long term risks to wildlife.

For that reason and those outlined below, I very recently gave up a licence after 30 years, to protect and promote legally protected great crested newts. It was initially issued in connection with the then largest known population of that species. However, staff within English Nature, failed to reflect scientific evidence from their own Chief Scientist's Directorate, by giving advice which inevitably pushed that population into radical decline. Ostensibly, that was for the benefit of a multimillion pound quarrying company, despite the fact that it had been successfully prosecuted in 1996. Early in 2017, both Natural England and two public inquiries, failed to address the "technical" and "complex" issues and turned a blind eye to current national policy, which states that what had been large populations "should" be restored. Last January, Harrogate Borough Council followed that tradition, by granting planning permission to build 175 houses in the middle of the habitat.

A precedent is now firmly set, for similar threats to all habitats of legally protected wildlife.

What may be another threat to what little remains of that once vast population and another local population established from newts rescued in the early 1990s, is the reason for this FoI request, i.e. the use of glyphosate to control the locally invasive and destructive waterweed, Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii).

If my notes are accurate, during one BBC Autumn Watch 2017 programme, Chris Packham said glyphosate is or may be a pesticide. If so, that suggests that it may be toxic to some aquatic and terrestrial animal life, on which great crested newts will be feeding.

John Barker.
Hon. Secretary,
Harrogate Trust for Wildlife Protection.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Thank you for your email.

 

The Access to Information Team are out of the office until Tuesday 7 May
2019 for the Bank Holiday period and will respond to all emails as soon as
possible on our return.

 

Thank you

Access to Information Team

 

This email and any attachments is intended for the named recipient only.
If you have received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose,
store or copy any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the
sender. Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been
checked for known viruses whilst within the Natural England systems, we
can accept no responsibility once it has left our systems. Communications
on Natural England systems may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the
effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Thank you for your email.

 

The Access to Information Team are out of the office until Tuesday 7 May
2019 for the Bank Holiday period and will respond to all emails as soon as
possible on our return.

 

Thank you

Access to Information Team

 

This email and any attachments is intended for the named recipient only.
If you have received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose,
store or copy any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the
sender. Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been
checked for known viruses whilst within the Natural England systems, we
can accept no responsibility once it has left our systems. Communications
on Natural England systems may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the
effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Barker

 

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 4649

 

Thank you for your request for the information as detailed in your email
below, which we received on 05 May 2019. We are dealing with your request
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

 

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within
the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 04 June 2019. If, for any
reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed
of the reasons for this.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [1][Natural England request email]

 

[2]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

 

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SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Baker

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 – Extension of time – RFI 4649

I am writing to advise you that the time limit for responding to your
request for information under the Environmental Information Regulations,
which we received on 05 May 2019, needs to be extended.

The Regulations allow us 20 working days to respond to your request from
the date of its receipt. However, it is occasionally necessary to extend
the 20 working day time limit for issuing a response. In this case, I
regret that we must extend the time limit for responding by 20 days to 02
July 2019, although we hope to reply sooner.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me.

Regards

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [1][Natural England request email]

 

[2]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

From: SM-NE-FOI (NE)
Sent: 08 May 2019 09:44
To: 'EM Agnew' <[FOI #574168 email]>
Subject: Access to Information - Acknowledgement - Request No RFI 4649

 

Dear Mr Barker

 

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 4649

 

Thank you for your request for the information as detailed in your email
below, which we received on 05 May 2019. We are dealing with your request
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

 

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within
the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 04 June 2019. If, for any
reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed
of the reasons for this.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [3][Natural England request email]

 

[4]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

 

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Dear Kate Donovan,

Thank you for your message.

For the health and safety of people and wildlife, it is reasonable to expect Natural England to have the requested information at its fingers tips, in view of the conditions which it imposes in the licences which it issues routinely.

Please explain why it could not provide the answer without any delay.

John Barker
Hon. Secretary,
Harrogate Trust for Wildlife Protection.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Baker

 

Access to Information request - Request to transfer - Request No RFI 4649

 

Thank you for your email dated 05 June 2019.

 

Following a comprehensive search we have finally established Natural
England does not hold this information and the Environment Agency deal
with licences which relate to the use of glyphosate and have agreed to
accept your request and provide a response in this case.

 

The Environment Agency can be contacted at
[1][email address]. Alternatively we can transfer your
request to the Environment Agency, but before doing so we request your
permission to notify them of your name and contact details. Please could
you confirm if you agree to this.

 

May I apologise for the delay and any inconvenience this may cause you.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

Natural England

Direct Dial: 0208 026 7470

[mobile number]

Email: [email address]

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

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HARROGATE TRUST FOR WILDLIFE PROTECTION

Dear Kate Donovan

Thank you for your 10 June 2019 response.

On the 05 May 2019 I asked on behalf of the Harrogate Trust for Wildlife Protection:-
(A) "Does Natural England insist on using glyphosate or an alternative weed killer?";
(B)"Does Natural England still stipulate in licences for killing harmful water weeds, in order to conserve aquatic habitats of great crested newts, "glyphosate weed killer" which does not contain "the surficant POEA as that has been shown to be toxic to amphibians"?;
(c) "If Natural England still insists on using glyphosate, what scientific evidence does it hold, which proves that it is not harmful to the health of humans and other animal life?";
(D) "If an alternative is now available and acceptable, (a) what is that herbicide and (b) what evidence exists which proves that it is not harmful to the health of humans and other animal life?"

In the explanation for this FoI request I mentioned that, "If my notes are accurate, during one BBC Autumn Watch 2017 programme, Chris Packham said glyphosate is or may be a pesticide. If so, that suggests that it may be toxic to some aquatic and terrestrial animal life, on which great crested newts will be feeding".

I am sure legal principles on Freedom of Information, require that Natural England answer questions about its own stipulations in its own licences. That is information which any court in the land would expect it to hold as a matter of necessity.

Clearly, it would not make sense for Natural England to say that it doesn't know what it stipulates in the licences which it is issuing, ((A) and (B) above), that it doesn't know the degree to which it may be placing licence holders and wildlife at risk, ((C) above), that it doesn't know if for people and wildlife, a safer herbicide exists which could be stipulated in its own licences and if such a herbicide does exists, that it doesn't hold the evidence which proves that it is safer than glyphosate, ((D) above).

No reasonable person would expect Natural England to conduct its own scientific research into biocides, when it can obtain all necessary evidence from other sources, such as independent scientists and academic institutions with no vested interests. It is also reasonable for Natural England to rely on the Environment Agency for credible scientific information. My charity's Freedom of Information request, was not submitted to any scientist, academic institution or the Environment Agency. It was submitted to Natural England because only it issues licences to use glyphosate within the aquatic habitats of legally protected great crested newts.

Please do your best to provide the information which Natural England must hold.

Yours sincerely,

John Barker.
Hon. Secretary.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Thank you for your email.

 

The Access to Information Team are out of the office until Monday 17 June
2019. If you have an urgent enquiry please email
[email address] or phone 0300 060 3900, otherwise
we will respond to all emails as soon as possible on our return.

 

Thank you

Access to Information Team

 

This email and any attachments is intended for the named recipient only.
If you have received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose,
store or copy any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the
sender. Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been
checked for known viruses whilst within the Natural England systems, we
can accept no responsibility once it has left our systems. Communications
on Natural England systems may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the
effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Barker

 

Please find attached our response to your request for information
considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

 

Regards

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [1][Natural England request email]

 

[2]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

show quoted sections

HARROGATE TRUST FOR WILDLIFE PROTECTION

Dear Kate Donovan

Thank you for your 01 July 2019 response.

It seems questionable, as to whether Natural England does or does not "stipulate", the wording in licences connected with legally protected species. For example, I knew nothing about approved chemicals, until Natural England's predecessor English Nature, advised to use glyphosate based Roundup Pro-Biactive, in the aquatic habitats of legally protected great crested newts.

Applicants can request specific wording but Natural England decides whether or not to agree with the specifics of each request. It often changes the requested wording, therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that it does "stipulate" what can and cannot be done, how, when and with what materials and chemicals.

Nevertheless, assuming that you could be correct in saying that Natural England does not "stipulate" which chemicals can be authorised for use in the habitats of legally protected wildlife, we have reframed our questions.

(1) Since Natural England was established on the 01 October 2006, what is the full list of chemical products, which it has authorised through licences, for use against vegetation associated with aquatic habitats of legally protected species?

(2) Which, if any, of those chemical products are regarded by Natural England as safer in terms of the health of (a) people and (b) other animal life?

(3) Which, if any, of those chemical products are no longer authorised for use by Natural England?

(4) What information summaries does Natural England hold, which prove that each and every chemical product currently authorised through the licensing system, does not by any means, harmfully work its way into the food chain, e.g. so the aquatic and terrestrial food sources of great crested newts are not contaminated?

(5) What information summaries does Natural England hold about those chemical products in (4) above, which prove that the health of (a) people and (b) wildlife are not harmed in any countries, by the manufacturing processes of those chemicals and chemical products?

Yours sincerely,

John Barker.
Hon. Secretary.

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Barker

 

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 4713

 

Thank you for your request for the information as detailed in your email
below, which we received on 02 July 2019. We are dealing with your request
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. I apologise for the
delay in acknowledging your request.

 

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within
the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 31 July 2019. If, for any
reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed
of the reasons for this.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [1][Natural England request email]

 

[2]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

show quoted sections

SM-NE-FOI (NE), Natural England

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Barker

 

Please find attached our response to your request for information
considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

 

Regards

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [1][Natural England request email]

 

[2]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

From: SM-NE-FOI (NE)
Sent: 03 July 2019 10:19
To: [FOI #574168 email]
Subject: Access to Information - Acknowledgement - Request No RFI 4713

 

Dear Mr Barker

 

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 4713

 

Thank you for your request for the information as detailed in your email
below, which we received on 02 July 2019. We are dealing with your request
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. I apologise for the
delay in acknowledging your request.

 

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within
the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 31 July 2019. If, for any
reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed
of the reasons for this.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Kate Donovan

Adviser - Access to Information

Legal & Governance Team

 

Natural England

Email: [3][Natural England request email]

 

[4]Make a request for information to Natural England

 

GDPR: Protecting our Customers’ and our People’s Information

 

 

show quoted sections