30 August 2001
CPA counters calls for spray bans

By Tom Allen-Stevens

The Crop Protection Association has hit back at accusations from water companies that the pesticide industry is doing little to improve water quality.

Water UK, which represents the UK water industry, called for certain pesticides to be banned in a statement released on Wednesday (29 August).

The organisation also delivered a report from EUREAU, its Europe-wide equivalent, to Rural Affairs minister Margaret Beckett.

The report is based on a comprehensive survey carried out to find out the extent of pesticide contamination of water in European countries.

It says that the UK is one of the most affected countries and between 5% and 10% of [water] resources regularly contain pesticides in excess of 0.0001mg/l.

EUREAU points the blame mainly at agricultural use of pesticides, herbicides in particular, for regularly exceeding this maximum legal limit.

We believe that further regulatory action through severe use restriction or even banning will be necessary, says the report.

Water UK points out that the UK water industry has spent 1 billion capital and a further 100 million a year in eliminating pesticides from water sources.

This is not sustainable over the long term as pesticide removal is an energy and resource intensive process, says the organisation.

But the CPA claims it is already tackling these issues with a multi-million pound programme, involving the water industry as well as farming unions.

The farming industry narrowly avoided a pesticide tax in March 2001, claims the CPA, after it submitted a 27-point Pesticide Stewardship plan to the Treasury.

Dr Anne Buckenham, CPAs Director General said the Association has worked hard to inform farmers on how to keep pesticides out of water sources.

Unfortunately the farmers best efforts can sometimes be defeated by unusual weather conditions such as the very wet autumns we have had recently.

The CPA asserts the legal limit has been set at a level far lower than would be needed on health or safety grounds and the UK complies 99.98% of the time.

The level is hundreds of times lower than is permitted for familiar poisons like arsenic or cyanide, says Dr Buckenham.

“To put the EU standard and the actual hazard to people into context, the weed killer mecoprop has the same toxicity rating as fluoride toothpaste.

The Governments own water surveys found that the proportion of samples containing more than the legal limit of atrazine fell from 17% to 3% after non-agricultural use of the herbicide was banned in 1992.

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