14 January 2000

NSA chief calls for moratorium on OP removal

OPs withdrawn

By Alistair Driver

THE National Sheep Association has attacked the governments decision to withhold sales of organophosphate sheep dips while OP product packaging is redesigned.

The government made its decision before Christmas to remove all OP chemicals from the market by Jan 28 to minimise the risk of exposure to users. But the NSA believes the decision was motivated by politics, not reason or logic.

The move will also have disastrous implications for sheep health and welfare and the environment, the NSA has warned. Its chief executive John Thorley has written to junior farm minister Baroness Hayman to express his concern and to request a moratorium on the decision.

He has asked for an urgent meeting of all interested parties to find an alternative solution to the problem. Mr Thorley particularly wants the views of the Environment Agency to be heard.

The EA says there is a much greater risk of groundwater pollution from the use of synthetic pyrethroids, the main alternative to OPs for farmers. SPs are known to be 100 times more toxic to aquatic life than OPs, posing a particular threat to invertebrate creatures that sustain larger aquatic animals such as salmon, according to the EAs Bob Merriman.

Mr Thorleys other major concern is that SPs are not effective against controlling lice or scab – a huge problem for farmers at this time of year.

"The removal of OPs creates a void which will result in a potentially serious welfare problem. In addition, where SPs are used to control scab, most derivative products have to be used twice," he said.

"The decision amounted to little more than another government "soundbite" and may have been made to test industry reaction to a ban on OP products, with an eye to permanent removal in the future."

The OP products could, in theory, be available again before this springs dipping season, but the National Office of Animal Health director Roger Cook, says this is unlikely because the new packaging has to be approved by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. He also questioned whether they would be back in time for next years season, given the nature of the regulatory procedure.