On May 14, UC President Janet Napolitano issued a temporary ban, with several exceptions, on the use of glyphosate-based herbicides. This suspension is a crucial stepping stone — one that students are at the forefront of. But there is a lot more work that needs to be done, considering the probable negative effects of such substances.
Glyphosate-based products have been tied to harmful impacts on health, including cancer. The herbicides used on weeds and grasses pose a potential threat to both the UC employees who apply them and individuals on university campuses — something that UC Berkeley students acknowledged.
Former members of the Cal beach volleyball team approached the athletics administration in 2017 about the use of glyphosate at the Clark Kerr Campus beach volleyball facility. Their commitment led to the discontinuation of such products in this area. To counteract the shortage of staff members able to pull out weeds manually, the team took responsibility for its implementation.
The UC-wide suspension is a direct result of this student involvement and pushback. And while the ban is a good step, campus should continue to listen to its students’ demands and extend the ban beyond its proposed end date. Considering glyphosate’s association with harmful health effects and the willingness of students to pitch in to this cause, the university must continue the trend started with this ban and protect the health of UC communities.
And students must follow up with the UC Berkeley campus to ensure that it goes above and beyond this preliminary step. The glyphosate ban is an example of students’ ability to influence campus to improve on its environmental policies.
There are many other environmental issues currently plaguing the campus, including UC Berkeley’s growing inability to meet its zero waste by 2020 goals. And while this goal is a good starting point and has achieved some successes, campus is behind in its efforts. Clearly, this is an ongoing project in need of both campus and student support — and it is only one of many such environmental projects.
While the burden of making improvements to the UC campuses’ environmental policies and practices shouldn’t fall entirely on the student body, student involvement in those areas can have positive impacts, as indicated by the glyphosate suspension. And the university needs to work with, not against, the efforts of these students. It’s time for the UC community to follow through on its goals.