MISLEADING PRODUCT labels from a leading spray manufacturer led to a farmer exceeding a European pesticide residue limit, according to a landmark court ruling.

Dow Agrosciences should have made farmers aware that the seven-day harvest interval for chlorpyrifos in China was shorter than the 21 days stipulated in other countries, said the court.

The Chinese Intermediate People‘s Court of Qingdao found that Dow Agrosciences had failed in its moral responsibility to its customers, the farmers, and to the consumers of fresh produce.

The case was brought by the New Millennium Group, which grows spinach in China for the international market.

In 2001, German authorities found residues of chlorpyrifos exceeding the legal limit in a spinach crop exported by the company.

But records showed the application of Lorsban was made according to Chinese label recommendations.

New Millennium blamed Dow, the pesticide manufacturer, arguing the time limit between application and harvest, specified on the label for Lorsban, was “dangerously short”.

At seven days, this was a third of the interval specified on labels for other countries, including Germany, yet data to support the short interval was “inadequate” contested New Millennium.

On Monday (May 24) the court found against Dow and ordered the company to pay $482,000 (£270,000) in damages to the producer.

The court pointed out that Dow was aware that residue limits in other countries were well below those permitted in China.

There should have been a warning on the label that use of the product, as recommended, was only applicable to the market in China, the court ruled.

Chinese farmers had always been blamed for exceeding residue limits in the past, pointed out New Millennium.

But it was due to its traceability system that the company was sure label recommendations had been followed in this case.

“This landmark judgment has brought to the world‘s attention the fact that pesticide suppliers could be held liable for their pesticide residues,” said a statement from the company.