THE VOLUNTARY Initiative on pesticides is not challenging enough, according to the environment, food and rural affairs select committee.

The MPs criticised the government for not placing sufficient priority on the safe and sustainable use of pesticides.

Moreover some of the VI‘s targets were insufficiently challenging, claim the committee.

The committee‘s report on the first four years of the Voluntary Initiative (VI) stated that there is little irrefutable evidence of the environmental benefits that have resulted from the initiative.

Nonetheless, the committee called for the VI to be renewed after March 2006 and for its remit to be re-focused on catchment-sensitive farming and other water issues.

It recommended that the government should provide financial support for the national roll-out of the water catchment projects.

The MPs further called for the VI‘s schemes for sprayer testing and operator registration to be made mandatory.

They also considered the issue of a pesticides tax, but stated that considerably more work is needed to explore the possible design of a pesticides tax before they can adopt a firm position with regard to its imposition.