22 August 1997

Action plan launched to tackle pesticide issues

By Tony McDougal

AN action plan designed to reduce the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health has been agreed by the Pesticides Forum, an independent government advisory group.

But the action plan, which received backing from seven government departments, including MAFF and the environment and health departments, was criticised by some campaigners for not being bold enough in tackling issues such as sustainability, biotechnology or application reduction policies.

The plan, which is divided into four areas – collaboration, techniques and technology, promotion and monitoring – agrees that the need to use chemical pesticides will continue for the foreseeable future. But it argues that their undesirable side effects must be identified and eliminated.

The plan highlights the current approaches to limiting pesticide use, such as integrated crop management, which seeks to minimise reliance on inputs.

It will also examine the use of protocols, which have already been instigated by the NFU in the horticultural sector.

And the forum, which includes farming, environmental and retail representatives, will look at setting up an accreditation scheme for crops produced using techniques that minimise the impact of pesticides.

Peter Beaumont, Pesticides Trust director and forum member, welcomed the amount of government interest in the action plan, but was concerned it would not go far enough. "Will it look at the frequency of applications, their environmental impacts, and how closely will this look at sustainability?" he asked.

Mr Beaumont said that while ICM had in the past been heavily endorsed there was a feeling that in the future government may want to go beyond the current status-quo and best practice.

"We give it two cheers but would like to see the forum look at changing use patterns, other pest controls and the biotechnology issue," he added.

Richard Trow-Smith, British Agrochemical Association spokesman, said he was pleased the government for the time being had moved away from talking about a stringent pesticide tax and were now tackling the responsible use of pesticides. He acknowledged there was a need to improve training and education among farmers.

Nigel Boatman, Game Conservancy Trust spokesman, said it was important that the plan took into account the benefits of conservation headlands, set-aside management, buffer zones and beetle banks, which could boost the environment and wildlife while using conventional techniques.

ACTIONPLANS AIMS

&#8226 Identify best way for farmers to adopt techniques that reduce the impact of pesticides.

&#8226 Provide better information about the environmental impact of individual pesticides.

&#8226 Advise on protocols for promoting responsible pesticide use.

&#8226 Advise on adoption of an accreditation scheme.

&#8226 Place greater emphasis on promotion of pesticides through training courses.