23 January 1998

MAFF to improve data on no-spray zone products

By Andrew Blake

MINISTRY officials have bowed to demands for better information on which pesticides have no-spray buffer zone requirements.

Applications within 6m of watercourses have been banned for a host of pesticides in a bid to improve environmental protection. Over 420 products now carry no-spray buffer zones restrictions. But keeping tabs on which products are affected is tricky in the absence of an up-to-date official list, say growers and agronomists.

"How can we farm within the law when we cant even get this information," says Velcourts technical director Keith Norman. "It is crazy."

"Even if you get a complete list it is out of date within five minutes," adds Suffolk-based independent crop consultant Edmund Brown.

In its defence the Pesticides Safety Directorate says it published a list of restricted products in its official publication, The Pesticides Register, last August, plus changes in subsequent issues.

But few farmers subscribe to The Pesticides Register, notes Mr Norman. "We produce crop production guidelines for our managers and need to know which products have buffer zones so everyone can keep within the law."

Last year he obtained such data relatively easily. This year the PSDs information service refused to help, saying a policy decision meant it no longer had the resources to handle numerous enquiries.

Only after pursuing his request with the head of cereals and set-aside at MAFF did Mr Norman resolve the matter. "Clearly the information was there, but I had a hell of a fight to get it," he says.

Now PSD is to make its list of restricted products more widely available, via e-mail on a trial basis, and on the PSDs Home Page on the Internet (see box).

It is also stepping up coverage in The Pesticides Register, with next months edition carrying a full list of affected products. Up-dated lists will appear twice a year, with monthly amendments in intervening issues.

NFU pesticides specialist Chris Wise welcomes the move. "But I am astonished they could not just press a button for an updated list." He also points out that union members can get a similar list using the free NFU Orderline service. &#42

BUFFER ZONE LIST

&#8226 424 products banned from use within 6m of watercourses.

&#8226 Demand for official list.

&#8226 PSD responding through IT.

&#8226 Email trial and Internet plans.

&#8226 Free list for NFU members.

Get electronic copy from…

Requests for an electronic copy of the PSDs full list should be made to the Information Section at PSD: p.s.d.information@psd.maff.gov.uk quoting your email address (plus telephone number). PSDs Home Page on the Internet is: www.maff.gov/uk/aboutmaf/ agency/psd/psdhome.htm