13 December 1996

Jamal ready to lift

fog from OP debate

By Tony McDougal

CASES of organophosphate poisoning among farmers will be easier to prove in court than to the government, according to leading OP researcher Dr Goran Jamal.

Dr Jamal said he was adamant that he could convince a court of law, possibly as early as next month, of the links between exposure to OPs and ill-health.

But he added the governments stringent accuracy criteria levels, which require 99% proof, meant there was still need for further research work.

"Scientists are required to present 99% competence and leave only 1% to pure chance. Is it right to put that to scientists, or can you allow us to say what is more likely or not likely?"

Dr Jamal, senior clinical lecturer in neurology at Glasgows Southern Hospital, made the claims while speaking of his decision to resign from the govern- ments medical and scientific panel, which is looking into effects of OPs (News, Dec 6).

While stressing he would continue his government-sponsored OP research work at Glasgow, Dr Jamal said current illness profiles and evidence from the US suggested that the governments ongoing support for OP licences was flawed.

Dr Jamal challenged MAFF to publish its new legal code of conduct, which he claimed prevented him from carrying out his public duty, along with minutes from recent panel meetings.

Paul Tyler, Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman and chairman of the all-party OP group, has called for an early meeting with both agriculture and health ministers, claiming it was difficult to reassure parliament that progress on OPs was being made.

"This inevitably raises new doubts about the governments determination to get to the bottom of the OP poisoning problems and to secure justice for its victims.

"Almost alone of all the panel members, he had both direct and very skilled experience and also complete independence from the commercial and official interest concerned."

Michael Meacher, Labours shadow environmental protection spokesman, claimed the government had acted appallingly: "It has covered up and staggered on in a fog of out-of-date advice, complacency and ignorance. Thousands of farmers and other OP users may pay a heavy price for this behaviour."n