26 October 2001

Chemical import ruling in three weeks

LAW lords should decide within three weeks whether the law should be changed to make it easier for farmers to import cheaper foreign chemicals.

The NFU is waiting for a final decision from the Court of Appeal which this week heard two days of evidence on the subject. The union was in court to intervene in a legal case involving the Crop Protection Association which wants tighter rules on pesticide imports.

NFU and DEFRA officials want to change rules which say pesticides approved in another country must be identical in composition to UK pesticides if they are imported.

Lord Justice Simon Brown heard arguments on Oct 23 and Oct 24 that the test for allowing parallel imports should be that the products are "essentially similar".

NFU senior legal adviser Robert Madge said a final ruling on the case was not expected for two or three weeks. "I think we had the better of the argument but we are going to have to wait and see," he said.

Meanwhile Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, has denied a pesticide tax could be back on the cards after a government spending review.

Mr Meacher said the government was committed to a voluntary package of measures first put forward by the Crop Protection Association in March. This package was set in motion with the launch of a pesticide use survey of 1350 arable farmers carried out by Central Science Laboratories.

The package was accepted by the government shortly before the last budget as a viable alternative to a pesticide tax. &#42