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'Barmy' pesticides ban blasted

By This is Devon  |  Posted: August 26, 2008

Lord Rooker

Lord Rooker

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MINISTERS are to step up pressure on the European Parliament

not to press ahead with "barmy plans" to ban three-quarters of

pesticides used by farmers.

Shoppers could face higher food prices if the new controls

are passed as farmers will see crop yields slashed.

Defra officials believe the new pesticides will "remove

important pesticides from the market".

The move would have a "significant adverse impact on crop

protection, but secure no significant health benefits for

consumers".

In particular, the proposals could prevent the use of

certain fungicides and result in substantially lower wheat

yields, possibly even 30 per cent below current levels.

Farming minister Lord Rooker is adamant fungicides should

not be banned before alternatives are approved.

He told the WMN the rules were "barmy" and he would be

urging other European countries to block the measure.

The opposition has to come from across the continent to

ensure that it is "not just Britain whingeing", he said.

The controversy centres on the types of chemicals which

Brussels wants to remove. They include banning substances which

have "endocrine disrupting properties" that could cause adverse

effect in humans.

However, the public is already exposed to such substances

through prescribed drugs, meat, peas and beans and products

like soya milk.

The Government insists withdrawing these pesticides is

likely to cause "significant agronomic and economic damage" but

not lead to any significant loss in overall consumer exposures

to endocrine disruptors.

In the autumn, the plan will be formally adopted as the

common position of the European Council and passed to the

European Parliament for the second reading.

Defra ministers hope pressure from national governments can

force a change of heart.

Scientists have raised serious concerns about the directive.

Dr Bill Parker, an entomologist with the agricultural

consultancy Adas, told BBC News: "If you start to reduce the

number of tools in the armoury – not just for pests, but for

weeds and diseases as well – then that actually makes the

business of food production much more risky.

"It doesn't necessarily mean we are going to have food

shortages overnight, but in due course and in certain years we

could well end up in the situation where the harvest for one

particular type of crop in one particular year could be very

severely compromised."

Anti-pesticide campaigners are adamant a crackdown on the

use of pesticides is needed to protect public health.

Georgina Downs, from UK Pesticides Campaign, says the new

measures "must not be watered down by industry lobbying".

Paul Chambers, the plant health advisor at the National

Farmers' Union, warned: "Pesticide usage is already very

strictly controlled in the UK and the industry has taken the

lead in adopting voluntary measures like sprayer testing and

training to further raise standards."

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  • Profile image for This is Devon
    Charles Henry, Somersey  |  September 05 2008, 3:37PM

    "You vil do as ve tell you!! . Heil Hitler!" . . . Roll on The Revolution!

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    Greta Hopkins, London  |  September 05 2008, 2:14PM

    the proposed EU pesticides ban is not 'barmy' and will not ban three-quarters of all pesticides. Only 4% of substances would disappear because they affect the human hormonal system (so-called endocrine disruptors) and only 2% because they are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. For most pesticides currently on the market, the text will only apply from 2016 onwards, which should give ample time for industry to develop safe alternatives. If these dangerous chemicals are not banned what incentive will industry have to develop less harmful alternatives? And where there are no alternatives, a temporary time limited approval remains possible. Prior to making its proposal, the Commission conducted long and extensive consultations with farmers' groups, the chemical industry, consumers' and other citizens' associations, environmental organisations and the governments of the Member States. The June package certainly sets strict health and environmental criteria for approval of substances for pesticide use. However, rather than "dramatically reducing" the availability of pesticides, this legislation targets the substances which are considered to be the most dangerous for human health or the environment. The package was agreed by a majority of Europe's national governments in June and will be voted on by MEPs later this year. In our view the legislation carefully balances the needs of farmers, industry and citizens in the South West, the UK and across the European Union.

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    Helen Dunnett, Brussels, Belgium  |  September 05 2008, 12:33PM

    Valid points made by Dr Garratt and Prof Matthews. To learn more about the revision of Europe's pesticide legislation and have your say visit www.pesticideinformation.eu.

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    Dr. James Garratt, Newcastle upon Tyne  |  September 05 2008, 8:14AM

    Pesticides are usually toxic. That is the basic reason why they are produced. But when they are used correctly, the level of exposure to people or the environment is so low that it will not cause any harm. The new rules will ban pesticides that would never be present at levels that are high enough to cause harm. This will leave our farmers rather short of tools in their toolbox of protecting their crops from damage from pests. And it probably won't make any difference to our health or the health of the environment.

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    Professor Graham atthews, Ascot UK  |  August 26 2008, 10:21AM

    The UK has had an excellent system of evaluating pesticide since the Zuckerman review . I agree with other scientists that we must retain the risk assessment methodology and NOT change to a hazard assessment. It is vital to maintain an armoury of pesticides to ensure economic crop production. I also agree that a range of products with different modes of action is needed in public health pest control. Industry has produced less toxic pesticides and certification of operators in the UK has enabled products to be applied more safely and effectively than in many other countries.

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