23 October 1998

ACCS firm on use of OPs in grain stores

GRAIN assurance schemes are pressurising UK cereal growers into unnecessary use of OP-based storage insecticides, claims a Somerset contractor, seed cleaner and seed and agrochemical merchant.

But at a meeting last week organisers of the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme agreed farmers and store operators should continue to decide whether or not to use OPs themselves.

Sales of such products are soaring as a direct result of the scheme, maintains Michael Pearce. Given growing concerns about their safety that is a concern, he says.

He claims there is a significant risk to anyone applying OPs to grain or subsequently working with treated grain, as well as to potential consumers. A routine medical check of his staff revealed significant exposure to OP pesticide soon after they had cleaned a large tonnage of malting barley, for example.

There is already enough evidence that OPs may be harmful to human health to justify his claim that they should not be used in grain storage, particularly when problems can be avoided without chemicals, he maintains.

His store is pressure washed to remove dust and insects before grain is loaded and ventilated using equipment of his own design which draws air down through the heap to cool and condition it.

The more common method of blowing air up through the heap tends to result in a warm damp layer at and just below the surface, which is ideal for insect activity, he says.

Using pneumatic conveyors at unloading also ensures grain is pest free. "They disintegrate en route."

ACCS requirements should be amended and could even be extended to guarantee grain has not been treated with OPs, he argues.

But at last weeks ACCS meeting organisers decided to leave the decision on OP use to farmers and store operators. That reflects the absence of scientific evidence that correctly applied, approved insecticides are in any way harmful, says ACCS spokesman Bill Young.

"But if new evidence comes up we would re-examine it," he says. &#42

Assurance schemes have sent OP insecticide use in grain stores rocketing. But should such schemes do more to actively encourage alternatives, asks Michael Pearce.