20 February 1998

Bring PSDout of the closet

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners are calling for the government agency that licenses pesticides to be separated from MAFF and to be more open.

Peter Riley, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, told MPs on the agriculture select committee that the Pesticides Safety Directorate was shrouded in secrecy and had to be removed from MAFF if consumers were to have confidence in it.

And he said the proposed food standards agency must have the powers to veto pesticide approvals and call for more trials on health grounds if that was necessary.

But Geoff Bruce, chief executive of PSD, said the current system worked extremely well. One thousand applications were reviewed each year with about 14 products being licensed. The PSD was considered to be one of the most thorough regulatory authorities in the EU, he declared.

PSD was not concerned which government department it reported to. All that was important was that the agency was not split up.

The British Agrochemicals Association reiterated to the MPs that the current registration system for pesticides in the UK was highly effective, with less than 1% of food samples containing pesticide residues that exceeded the maximum residue level.