Cereals 2010: Pesticide legislation needs a light touch

NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones has called on the new coalition government to treat pesticide legislation with a light touch to help farmers deliver a secure and sustainable food supply.

Speaking at Cereals 2010, Mr Jones said the Sustainable Use Directive, which covers on-farm use of pesticides, would be the first test of government support, with ministers now considering the results of a DEFRA industry-wide consultation.

“They said they would support the industry on this matter when in opposition – they now need to put that into practice,” said Mr Jones.

“The industry has increasingly shown it can act responsibly on its own, through the Voluntary Initiative and now the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, where the whole industry is speaking with one voice.”

Key measures within the directive included sprayer testing and spraying notification and access to records, the former now a key part of the VI and the latter well covered by the NFU’s Good Neighbour initiative.

“There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” Mr Jones said. “The government needs to show the light touch by supporting voluntary measures and reducing the regulatory burden wherever it can.”

That also applied to the Water Framework Directive, where there was some flexibility for member states to interpret the legislation, especially on the so-called comparative assessment process.

This was carried out by member states on products that had passed one set of hazard criteria but breached another, and were deemed to do the same job. Member states could decide whether to keep them, based on a range of factors like economic impact, minor crop use or risk of resistance.

“We hope government ensures any decisions are implemented in a pragmatic way,” said Mr Jones. “We are already down to the bare bones with our pesticide armoury.

“Given the need to produce more food from a smaller area, increasing yield will play a major part, and along with it the need to control pests, weeds and diseases.

“If government recognises the importance of crop protection and crop protection products in the food production system that will be a major step in the right direction.”

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