The UK government should push for a “safeguard” clause to be inserted into the proposed updated pesticides approval directive currently going through its second reading in the European Parliament, MPs heard at a cross-party parliamentary group on science and technology in agriculture meeting on Tuesday (28 October).

The clause would allow for a full impact assessment to be undertaken during the 18-month period for the directive to take affect following its passage through the European Parliament, Dominic Dyer of the Crop Protection Association explained.

There should be no objection to a full impact assessment, Sean Rickard of Cranfield University suggested. “If there is the evidence there should be nothing to hide from doing an impact assessment.”

The Countess of Marr agreed a science-based impact assessment was required, but suggested it shouldn’t just be confined to agriculture, but also needed to look at the impact on human health, including the long-term effects, and what it costs the health service.

Concerns were voiced by MPs and Lords about the lack of science at the foundation of EU proposals to restrict pesticide availability at the meeting. Members of both the House of Commons and the Lords wanted to know why sound science had not informed the European Commission and Parliament proposals, given that food security, environment and public health may all be at stake.

But the Pesticide Action Network‘s Nick Mole welcomed the proposals. He told MPs that he had never heard so much “desperate scaremongering” in reply to a presentation from Mr Rickard, who told the meeting that the proposals were “an act of madness”.

“Surely we are at a point in history where we need to maximise productivity from our land. The EU is a food producer for the rest of the world, yet here it is turning a complete blind eye [to needing to increase production to feed an increasing population],” Prof Rickard had said.

But Mr Mole suggested there would be no threat to production because of an in-built essential use derogation safeguard, which he said would allow pesticides that otherwise would be withdrawn to be used where no alternative existed.

Only 23 active substances would be withdrawn as a result of the proposals, he claimed, and pointed out substances would not be de-registered until they came up for re-approval. “The way the system has been back-loaded, for most that wouldn’t be until 2016.”

e compared the switch to a hazard-based system with major retailers producing lists of approved pesticides. “They are using a hazard-based process and they have no problem in supplying their customers.”