Farm leaders have said they are worried about the prospect of tighter spray controls in the absence of evidence that bystander exposure can lead to ill-health.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution published a report on Thursday (22 Sept) which indicated a link was plausible rather than proven.

Because of the uncertainty, it recommended to government that extra precautionary measures are taken, including the introduction of a 5m no-spray zone close to houses.

Responding to the report, NFU Scotland reiterated that science must dictate any future regulation. 

Chairman of NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee David Houghton, said the commission’s report said the science was very uncertain.

“That makes the case for further research, not further regulations.”

NFU deputy president Peter Kendall echoed this view claiming it was “plainly wrong” for yet more regulation to precede the science.

Mr Kendall added: “Some of the commission’s recommendations, if accepted, will only add yet more burden onto heavily regulated farmers without satisfying the demands made by a small minority of protesters.”

Jill Hewitt, National Association of Agricultural Contractor’s chief executive pointed out that sprayer contractors were already a highly trained, highly regulated sector of the industry.

“They are serious about their businesses and serious about the need to protect the safety of the public and environment.’

‘The spraying operation is a highly visible, sensitive operation and a contractor cannot afford to make mistakes – every job is an advert for their business therefore it must be done properly.”