The announcement of a DEFRA consultation which will examine the options for implementing new EU pesticide rules in the UK has been welcomed by industry experts.

The consultation, which last 12 weeks, aims to ensure the UK complies with two key pieces of European legislation – the Sustainable Use Directive and the Plant Protection Products Regulation. Its outcomes will have important implications for farmers and growers across the UK, particularly as it covers obligations for prior notification of spraying near houses and access to pesticide records.

But growers should not be afraid of the legislation, said Crop Protection Association director of policy Anne Buckenham. “The UK leads the way in Europe on responsible pesticide use through stewardship programmes such as the voluntary initiative,” she said. “We welcome this consultation as a means of raising standards across the EU to those already largely in place in the UK through a combination of statutory and voluntary measures.”

Undoubtedly, there would be change in some areas, but it was hoped these would be managed through a voluntary approach. “The last thing we want is burdensome legislation,” she said.

“Our overriding objective is that the practical implementation of this legislation in the UK shows pesticides to be used safely for people, wildlife and the environment, while safeguarding their vital role in food production by preventing crop losses due to pests, diseases and weed competition.”

NFU plant health adviser Paul Chambers said it was understandable that some were concerned by the rules, but the UK was already ahead of the game when it came to fulfilling EU requirements. “In many cases farmers and growers already support voluntary measures when it comes to pesticide use through the Voluntary Initiative and there has been successful uptake in the National Register of Sprayer Operators.” In addition, many growers were already informing neighbours prior to commencing spraying activities, he noted.

However, the consultation should not be taken lightly, he warned. “This is a very important consultation and so we will be fully consulting with our members before giving a detailed response to DEFRA.”

An NFU survey of its members showed a low level of neighbour concern and he believed any legislation should reflect that, said Mr Chambers. “With the current food production challenge now looming, the safe use of pesticides is vital in enabling our growers to produce wholesome, nutritious and affordable food.”