31 May 1996

Pesticides Forum calls for more information on product labels

By Tony McDougal

CALLS for better monitoring of pesticide labelling and improved communication between manufacturers, distributors and farmers were made at the inaugural meeting in London of the Pesticides Forum.

Set up after the governments pesticide minimisation conference last October, the 16 organisations from across the agricultural spectrum agreed there was a need for better information on labelling.

Their concern follows discussions by the chemical and agricultural group of the Health and Safety Executive (CHEMAG), which argued that due to the complex amount of information provided, present pesticide labelling did not help operators making their COSH&#42 assessments.

While manufacturers are tending to rely on distributors to get labelling information to the grass-roots farmer, distributors prefer not to waste time providing details unless a sale can be expected. But distributors are legally bound to provide health and safety data sheets on agrochemicals sold.

The main aim of the forum – which reviewed current research and decided to set up an action plan for the responsible use of pesticides – is to assist in the effective dissemination of best pesticide practice.

Forum delegates expressed their disappointment that spending cuts had led to the disbanding of MAFFs pesticide labelling and container panel, which advised the advisory committee on pesticides.

Better link

Peter Beaumont, Pesticides Trust director, said he hoped the forum would provide a better link between interested groups and the government committee.

Charles Russell, chairman of the Scottish NFUs field vegetables committee, said it had become more difficult to get information on pesticides. "Manufacturers are now relying more on distributors to get information through. But often individuals are being left in the dark. It is important to get independent agronomists to give impartial advice," he added.

Tony Pike, British Agrochem-icals Association director, admitted there were problems of communication. "There is an awareness of varying needs of information to be passed on. An adviser may need different information from a farm operator. But the provision of information must be addressed."

Mr Pike said the forum had also discussed the need to set up a national integrated crop management qualification for farm advisers. It follows a report by the Department of the Environment saying that advisers were playing a key role in setting up ICM practices on farms.

Other issues likely to come up for discussion at the next meeting in October will be the use of genetic manipulation of herbicide resistant plant varieties and the use of OPs in sheep dip. &#42