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
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
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."