THE PUBLICATION of a survey of sheep dippers who believe their ill-health has been caused by exposure to organophosphates has been delayed.

The survey of health and pesticide exposure (SHAPE) carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was first expected a year ago but has suffered a series of delays.

A DEFRA spokeswoman has now confirmed to farmers weekly that it will not be published until next year. The actual survey was carried out between January 2001 and August 2003, and farmers, families and support organisations have been awaiting the results ever since.

“We are frustrated that it is taking so long to publish the report,” said Elizabeth Sigmund, coordinator of the OP Information Network.

The report examined the health effects of exposure to OPs during sheep dipping in more than 1000 farmers.

The draft of the final report of the epidemiological part of the study was submitted to DEFRA in the summer and was then sent out for peer review.

According to the DEFRA spokeswoman, the reviewers asked for changes to be made to the report, which consequently was sent back to the researchers.

Changes were then made, and the report has been sent out for its second round of peer review.

“We are extremely concerned. There seems to be no real urgency or commitment to publication, and many people are frustrated,” said Lib Dem MP Paul Tyler, chairman of the All Party Organophosphate Group.

Mr Tyler said that the reviewers of the report allegedly had questioned the methodology of the report, something he thought the department, which commissioned the research, should have sorted out in advance of the commencement of the survey.

He also criticised DEFRA generally for its unwillingness to give out information about work it is carrying out.


“The dialogue with the department after Michael Meacher left it has been less than satisfactory. There really are so many unanswered questions,” Mr Tyler said.

“We are going to have a meeting with [junior DEFRA minister] Ben Bradshaw in the New Year, and the fate of the SHAPE study is one of the issues we will ask him about,” Mr Tyler said.

The SHAPE study has been supervised by Tony Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was not available for comment as farmers weekly went to press.