NFU vice-president Guy Smith has accused the Soil Association of “double standards” over its support for copper-based fungicides in organic agriculture, while it is running a campaign to ban glyphosate.
Mr Smith has publicly questioned the consistency of the Soil Association (SA), which is conducting a campaign against the use of glyphosate while backing the use of copper-based fungicides.
The SA approached the NFU to ask if it would support an application to Defra for the continued use of copper-based fungicides in organic farming.
“I have absolutely full confidence that copper-based fungicides are safe to use and have no negative implication for human health or the environment if used correctly and professionally,” said Mr Smith.
“The NFU is fully supportive of their use, as this clearly helps our organic members.
“However, my concern is the SA are applying a totally different scrutiny to a key material used by non-organic farmers, namely glyphosate, to the scrutiny they use when it comes to addressing the safety of copper-based fungicides.
“This is clearly a case of hypocritical double standards and exposes the SA’s campaign against glyphosate as not really being about human health, but more about attacking conventional agriculture for the sake of it.”
Mr Smith called on the SA to “think twice” about demonising non-organic farmers and represent non-organic and organic farmers fairly.
In response, the SA said Mr Smith’s comments were a “deliberate ploy” to distract people from the “indefensible practice of pre-harvest spraying of glyphosate”.
Peter Melchett, SA policy director, said: “The NFU never mention two things about the use of copper: firstly, that more copper is used as a soil conditioner by non-organic farmers than is used by organic farmers as a fungicide on three crops – potatoes, vines and apples.
“Secondly, as an organic farmer, if you want to use copper as a fungicide, you have to get permission and draw up a plan to show how you will reduce using it in future.
“There are very strict limits on the amount that you can use per hectare per year.
“These are restrictions that non-organic farmers wouldn’t dream of agreeing to, as they apply a dozen or more chemicals to single crops each year.”
Lord Melchett also took to Twitter to deny claims a photograph of glyphosate spraying of a wheat crop had been doctored.
To see the full conversation between David Walston and Lord Melchett click on the embedded Tweet below.
— David Walston (@OOOfarmer) February 14, 2017