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'Disgraceful' decision on spray rules - campaigner

Thursday 16 December 2010 10:00

The award-winning environmental campaigner who has waged a 10-year pesticide safety campaign has pledged to continue her crusade - even though the government has rejected the introduction of mandatory measures to protect rural residents living near sprayed fields.


Georgina Downs, of the UK Pesticides Campaign, said it was a disgrace that the government had decided there was no need to introduce any new measures to protect the health of rural residents from pesticide exposure.

The government made the decision in a response to a consultation on new European pesticide legislation. Only minor changes were needed for the UK to meet the requirements of EU law, said junior DEFRA minister Lord Henley.

But Ms Downs said: "The prohibition of the use of pesticides in the locality of homes, schools, children's playgrounds, hospitals and public areas is absolutely crucial for public health protection, especially that of vulnerable groups."

The government's response would result in the incorrect implementation of the new rules, as it effectively maintained the status quo and failed to bring in any mandatory measures to protect rural residents from exposure to pesticides.

Ms Downs said: "To say that no compelling evidence was provided in the responses to justify bringing in measures is simply not correct and in fact is outrageous."

Ms Downs said she had herself provided ministers with a number of documents based on the government's own findings showing that rural residents were inadequately protected against pesticides.

In fact, she added, DEFRA itself had recently commissioned research costing £1m to determine if "current tools and methods are appropriate for assessing exposure amongst residents living near fields".

Farm leaders, however, said it was common sense that existing voluntary measures and legal requirements governing pesticides in the UK would be largely able to meet the new European rules.

NFU vice president Gwyn Jones said the government announcement vindicated the approach of British farmers and growers who currently used voluntary measures to govern pesticide use.

"We recognise that best practice advice continues to evolve. We encourage all pesticide users to continue working hard at raising standards and ensuring consumer confidence under the successful voluntary initiative.

"Farmers are proud that standards here in the UK are world-leading and all along we have said that this new legislation should bring all EU Member States up to the same high levels of competency."

Anne Buckenham, director of policy at the Crop Protection Association, said the UK already led the way in Europe on responsible pesticide use. The government had clearly recognised the success and cost-effectiveness of this approach.

"Our overriding objective is to ensure that pesticides can continue to be used safely for people, wildlife and the environment, while safeguarding their vital role in food production by preventing crop losses."

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