06 August 1999
University slams spray tax study

By Jonathan Riley

A GOVERNMENT-FUNDED feasibility study into pesticide taxes has been criticised by the University of Wales Agriculture and Land Use unit.

The university report, funded by the British Agrochemical Association, said many findings in a study commissioned by the Department of the Environment were unsound.

The DETR report, carried out by the consultancy Ecotec, had examined details of how a new pesticide tax might be implemented.

It suggested that a tax would benefit the consumer and environment.

But Gareth Edwards-Jones, Professor of agriculture and land use studies at the University of Wales, said many of the findings in the report should be reviewed.

The government had suggested pesticide taxes could indirectly benefit human health, but there were no relevant measures used to assess toxicity, he said.

Taxing pesticides was not as straightforward as taxing leaded petrol to persuade people to buy unleaded, Prof Edwards-Jones added.

“The least toxic chemicals are often the newest and can cost 20 times as much as the most toxic chemicals,” he said.

“In this situation taxes alone will not add enough cost and will not encourage producers to use another chemical.”

Less toxic chemicals were not always available and again a tax would not dissuade producers from using the cheaper chemical, Prof Edwards-Jones added.

“So the government cannot guarantee to the public that a tax is a robust method of delivering environmental benefits either.”