9 July 1999

Ban em now calls

CAMPAIGNERS opposing the use of organophosphate pesticides have stepped up their call for an immediate ban on all OP-based products after the Institute of Occupational Medicines report linking the chemicals with nerve damage in sheep dippers.

Elizabeth Sigmund of the OP Information Network attacked farm minister Jeff Rooker for delaying decisions and advice.

Speaking at a press briefing in Cornwall Mrs Sigmund said that evidence suggesting OPs could damage human health had been accumulating since 1951. And she added that before the last election Labour had pledged to introduce a moratorium on OP sales if they were elected.

Also at the briefing was North Cornwall MP, Paul Tyler, chairman of the all-party OP group in parliament. He said the IOM report must lead to a ban on the use of OPs. "Effectively, the IOM team are saying the only way to protect the health of those who dip sheep is to eliminate exposure to OPs. The only way to do that is to remove them from use completely."

The all-party OP group believed Mr Rooker should seek a voluntary suspension of the licences for OPs until further studies that government had in hand were completed.

"It would be irresponsible to allow farmers, farm workers, and their families to be exposed to unnecessary health hazards for a moment longer than needed, now we know precisely what is involved," said Mr Tyler.

NFU president, Ben Gill, did not call for a ban on OP products but instead reminded producers to follow OP product instructions carefully and to take the necessary precautions.