Farmers Weekly has written to EU health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, demanding a new and more comprehensive impact assessment before new anti-pesticide legislation is agreed in Brussels.

The letter also set out the case for resisting many of the changes being proposed by the European parliament and urged the Commissioner to reign in some of the more extreme proposals.

We have also sent her, and senior members of her team, a copy of the synopsis describing the SOS campaign and the results of our petition.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Commissioner Vassiliou

We are writing to draw your attention to a campaign we have been running in Farmers Weekly, called our Save Our Sprays Campaign.

This has been run in response to the ongoing revision of Directive 91/414 on pesticide approvals, which is causing real concern among farmers and the whole agricultural industry, both in the UK and the rest of the EU.

As you will see from the attached synopsis of our campaign, a major part of our effort has been to organise a petition. This was presented to Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer in Brussels this week, and the synopsis is being circulated to the entire European Parliament Environment Committee ahead of their crucial vote on 5 November.

As you can see, our readers have two key demands:

  • First, they want a new impact assessment carried out, looking into the effects on food availability and food prices in particular, before cut-off criteria are applied.
  • Second, they want the European Parliament to stick with the four cut-off criteria contained in the Council’s common position and not add any more restrictions.

We realise from an interview we ran with your department (Farmers Weekly, 3 October) that the European Commission has already done an impact assessment (COM/2006/388 final) and believes this is sufficient. We disagree on the grounds that cut-off criteria were not part of that impact assessment and the crucial issues of food availability and food price were not investigated.

We are also very concerned at the way the legislation could develop as the regulation gets its second reading in the European Parliament.

As you will be aware, Ms Breyer has reinstated most of the amendments tabled at first reading. If these are accepted, the impact on pesticide availability and EU food production would be far-reaching, (whatever your view on the validity or otherwise of the UK Pesticides Safety Directorate assessment).

Obviously, we have to wait and see what comes out of the Environment Committee vote on 5 November. But we would urge the Commission and Presidency during the process of trilateral meetings to ensure the final outcome goes no further than what is contained in the Council’s common position.

I look forward to receiving your comments.

Yours sincerely

Philip Clarke

Economics and world editor

Farmers Weekly