6 December 1996

OPexpert is quitting panel on principle

ONE of the countrys leading experts on the effects of organophosphorus pesticides on human health has resigned from the governments special medical and scientific panel.

Dr Goran Jamal, neurophysiologist at Glasgow Southern General Hospital, said he believed a new MAFF code of conduct "seeks to limit (panel) members involvement in court proceedings with regards to the human health aspects of exposure to organophosphorus compounds.

"I find it difficult to reconcile my perception of this limitation with my understanding of the duty to the court as an expert witness, which is to inform the court as to the state of knowledge with regards to the matters before it in an objective, unbiased way."

It is the second time within the past six months that Dr Jamal has criticised government handling on OPs. In May, he attacked the veterinary products committee for placing too much emphasis on data from chemical manufacturers.

New legal code

Dr Nick Bateman, chairman of the medical and scientific panel, said the new legal code of conduct – first discussed last year and not fully approved – was not designed to prevent panel members from giving evidence either for sheep dip sufferers or chemical manufacturers.

Instead, it was aimed at preventing conflicts of interest arising from confidential information aired at panel meetings.

Meanwhile, MAFF has admitted that until 1995 it did not keep records of some sheep dip products submitted for licence reviews by agrochemical companies. It claimed lack of resources prevented the ministry from holding documents concerning reviews for cresolic, phenolic and propetamphos dip products.

Susan Spence, MAFF head of civil litigation, said, in a letter written last month to Kent farmer Gary Coomber, that once the assessment process had been completed, "all data was either returned to the applicant or destroyed, depending on the preference of the applicant."

&#8226 A top farming company has banned the use of the OP insecticide dimethoate for aphid and thrips control (see Arable, p45).

Tony McDougal