Downs to fight pesticides case in European Courts

Anti-pesticide campaigner Georgina Downs is preparing to take her case alleging the UK government has “fundamentally failed to protect the public from pesticides” to the European courts.


Ms Downs lost her domestic case in the Court of Appeal last July, after winning the original High Court case in November 2008. An attempt to appeal that decision was denied by the Supreme Court in December.

That decision was described as “highly questionable” by Ms Downs. She claimed the Court of Appeal “inexplicably ignored” the content within her witness statements, substituting her arguments and evidence with that of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution‘s report on bystander exposure.

“It meant the judgement was not based on the same case that led to victory in the High Court,” she said.

The detailed witness statements used in the domestic case were published on Ms Downs’ campaign website this week. “They expose the true extent of the Government’s failure to protect the public from pesticides.

“The evidence confirms there has never been any evidence to support the Government position of safety to residents or children attending schools near sprayed fields,” she claimed.

In particular, she pointed to a 2003 study in which the Pesticides Safety Directorate, now the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD), undertook estimates of a limited number of other exposure factors not in the existing bystander exposure model. That study found 82 examples of the acceptable operator exposure level (AOEL) being exceeded.

“Yet despite the results, no action was taken to revoke approvals of pesticides found to exceed the AOEL, no further studies undertaken on all the other pesticides approved for use, and no change was made to the bystander assessment model,” she said.

In a statement, CRD said the study included estimates of scenarios that could not be expected to commonly occur in everyday life, including extreme levels of estimated exposure.

“Unsurprisingly, some of these theoretical scenarios indicated estimated levels of exposure that would be above the acceptable level.

“The Advisory Committee on Pesticides took the view that regulators should base their decisions on the standard model, reflecting realistic exposure levels. DEFRA was aware of this decision,” CRD said.