Oakland, May 16, 2019 – University of California President Janet Napolitano has issued a temporary end to the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, Ranger, and other commercial herbicides, on all ten UC campuses serving over 200,000 students. The Berkeley campus reduced the use of herbicides last year after pressure from students and faculty. The World Health Organization has listed glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto, as a probable carcinogen and earlier this week, a San Francisco jury awarded a couple $2 billion in damages after finding that the herbicide caused their cancer. President Napolitano said in an official May 14 memo that she based her decision on health, environmental and legal concerns after a discussion with the UC Council of Chancellors.
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said the move was an important first step, but urged permanent action.
“This is a win for a young generation of students who have schooled their administration in the health and environmental dangers of this omnipresent weed killer,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “This ban should become permanent and extend to a host of other unnecessary toxic herbicides widely used on UC campuses. The administration and UC Regents have taken this first step, but they should continue to listen to the students’ demands and the research of UC faculty.”
The UC ban includes several exceptions, including agricultural operations, and programs to reduce wildfire risk and protect native habitats, among others. A long-term policy on glyphosate use will be determined by a newly-formed Herbicide Taskforce, currently composed primarily of university administrators.
The decision to temporarily halt the use of glyphosate comes after a multi-year campaign begun by student athletes at UC Berkeley who discovered that Ranger was used near their volleyball courts.
“We are encouraged that the UC President and Regents have made the decision to stop using glyphosate on UC campuses, but there is no need to wait for more research to make the ban permanent,” said Mackenzie Feldman, UC Berkeley alumna and founder of Herbicide-Free UC, a Food & Water Watch campus campaign. “The science is in–glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor that doesn’t belong on campus.”
Student leaders are pressing to extend the action to all herbicides on California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and substances that cause birth defects and reproductive harm, as well as other herbicides that pose a risk to human health and the environment.
“It’s crazy to expose students, faculty and staff–especially groundskeepers–to a host of toxic weed killers,” said Alice Beittel, chair of the UC Davis student government’s Environmental Policy and Planning Commission, and a Food & Water Watch campus fellow. “This is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done to make all UC campuses herbicide-free. Many UC campuses still use herbicides listed under Proposition 65 that are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.”
Students say they will continue their campaign until the ban on glyphosate and other weed killers is permanent and contains no exceptions, with the goal of transitioning to all-organic land management practices.