Confusion over label infringements

Urgent clarification is being sought by farmers and advisers over how cross-compliance inspections of spray records are being carried out.

Rural Payments Agency inspections could, and have, according to some in the arable advice industry, find infringements of pesticide labels that may lead to single farm payments being withheld.

The cross-compliance guide states: “Pesticides should be used in accordance with any requirement or condition specified or required by the approval on the label.”

But exactly what was legally binding on a label was causing confusion, said Andrew Clark, head of NFU policy services. “We’re talking to the Pesticides Safety Directorate because there is a concern RPA inspectors are taking the whole label as legally binding.”

However, there was wording on labels that was never meant to be legally binding, Bob Mills, Frontier technical manager, said. “It was to do with best practice, to help with efficacy.”

The situation had been exacerbated by the removal of the statutory box from labels, said Keith Dawson, SAC’s principal crops consultant (for more on this see That was intended to make labels clearer, but appears to have had the opposite effect.

“No one wishes to do anything unsafe to the environment, consumers or operators,” Mr Mills stressed. “But we need to define what a safety risk is, and what are just stewardship, best practice and efficacy, where agronomists make their own call.”

Strict observance to stated label restrictions, while an admirable aim, could if misapplied undermine progress made by the industry in helping to minimise the environmental impact, lessen and optimise pesticide use and reduce carbon footprints, Dr Dawson suggested. “For example, water volumes are a credible way to reduce environmental impact and reduce cost of production.”

But their use could be threatened because relatively obscure statements on some labels mean doses have to be reduced pro rata when using low water volumes (see Farmers Weekly, 2 March). “The number that could come unstuck with that will be phenomenal,” Association of Independent Crop Consultants agronomist Patrick Stephenson suggested.

Reading the new Green Code Pesticide handbook would help growers to understand which pesticides cannot be applied at low water volumes without reducing rate, fellow AICC agronomist Bryce Rham said. “It is all on page 81, but it is a nightmare. Manufacturers should be taking the lead on this. I want them to clarify with PSD what label statements are legally binding, and draw up a list of products affected [by this water volume issue].”

At the time of going to press RPA was unable to answer detailed FW questions about cross-compliance inspections of spray records. But it did state: “SMR9 merely re-enforces existing legislation claimants are required to do nothing new.”

Possible areas of concern:

  • Low water volume spraying
  • Multiple applications of same active ingredient
  • Tank mix recommendations
  • Novel spraying systems
  • Supply of similar/identical products from buying group with different product name to recommendation
  • Liability – agronomist or farmer

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