14 March 2001
‘Cynical’ ministers reject OP experts

By Donald MacPhail

CAMPAIGNERS against organophosphate sheep dips have accused ministers of cynically rejecting research proposals from independent researchers.

An extended 1.4 million programme of research into the effects of OPs on human has been announced, following an invitation for proposals.

Researchers will investigate “dippers flu” and neuropsychiatric problems in farmers exposed to OPs, as well as the effects on children.

But Elizabeth Sigmund of the OP Information Network has claimed that selectors overlooked researchers with extensive clinical experience.

Among research proposals rejected were those from consultants who have been investigating the effects of OPs on children and in bone damage, she said.

“Were extremely disappointed that not one of the consultants who worked with clinical cases was given funding,” Mrs Sigmund told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“Im afraid this is a cynical exercise by MAFF, and to treat hundreds of people with OP poisoning in this way is extremely depressing.”

Paul Tyler, chairman of the All-Party Organophosphate Parliamentary Group welcomed the research money, but said it should have been given years ago.

The MP for North Cornwall said: “It is an enormous step forward to get these key issues addressed by some of the top medical teams in the country.

He gave the research “two cheers”, saying he would make it three if compensation was paid to people who believed OPs had damaged their health.

He added: “Its a devastating indictment of successive governments that they have only reached this stage now.

The Government is also funding an analytical survey of health complaints among sheep-dippers by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Additional work which received partial support is also being considered for possible future inclusion in the research programme.

The Ministry of Agriculture was unable to say how researchers were selected.