13 January 2000
No end in sight for sheep dip ban

By Isabel Davies and Alistair Driver

ORGANOPHOSPHATE sheep dips are unlikely to be reintroduced any time soon, a meeting of the National Farmers Union council in London has been told.

Manufacturers are withdrawing the OP dips in line with a government order which effectively bans the chemicals until new packaging has been designed.

The government has given chemical companies until the end of this month to complete the withdrawal in an effort to minimise the health risks to users.

The withdrawal, which was announced before Christmas, effectively bans OP dips until new packaging has been introduced to minimise accidental spillages.

But no manufacturer has yet submitted plans to satisfactorily redesign OP containers, said Brian Jennings, chairman of the NFUs animal health committee.

“Its likely theyll be nothing available for next year,” he told NFU council delegates on Thursday (13 January).

The news is a blow to livestock farmers who have warned that OP dips are the only effective measure against problems such as sheep scab.

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said the decision to ban OP dips was motivated by politics, not reason or logic.

The move will have disastrous implications for sheep health and welfare and the environment, he told Farmers Weekly.

Mr Thorley has written to junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman to express his concern and to request that the ban should be postponed.

He has also asked for an urgent meeting of all interested parties, including the Environment Agency, which monitors pollution levels in water courses.

The agency has warned of a much greater risk of groundwater pollution from the use of synthetic pyrethroids (SPs), the main alternative to OPs for farmers.

SPs are 100 times more toxic to aquatic life than OPs and pose a particular threat to invertebrate creatures that sustain larger aquatic animals such as salmon.

The National Office of Animal Health, which represents OP manufacturers, conceded that it would take time for OP dips to come back on the market.

A rapid return was unlikely because any new packaging would have to be approved by the governments Veterinary Medicines Directorate, it said.