Video: Grower reacts to planned ban for chlorothalonil

As a conventional farmer, David Butler is trying to find the right balance between productive agriculture and looking after wildlife on his farm.

A fourth-generation farmer, Mr Butler farms East Wick Farm, a 650ha mixed holding near Marlborough, in Wiltshire, in partnership with his wife and parents. He is trying to farm in a sustainable way using more traditional mixed rotations.

Only this week he passed his BASIS course in integrated crop protection, with the specific aim of learning about how to minimise the use of farm inputs.

See also: Analysis – what a ban on chlorothalonil fungicide would mean

Farm facts

RJ Butler & Sons, based near Marlborough, Wiltshire

  • Mixed tenure, 650ha
  • 280 Holstein Friesian cows
  • 8.5% of cropped area devoted to conservation habitats
  • Farm enrolled in Countryside Stewardship scheme
  • Winners of the 2019 Barn Owl Award from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) South West’s regional competition

But Mr Butler is concerned that the loss of key components of the agrochemical toolbox, such as neonicotinoids and now chlorothalonil (CTL), is pressuring farmers to use inferior, more expensive alternatives.

Meanwhile, the UK will still be exposed to food imports that have been produced using the very same products that local farmers are banned from using.

Q&A: The European Commission explains upcoming CTL ban

Member states of the EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) voted against the renewal of chlorothalonil on Friday 22 March.

Farmers Weekly contacted the European Commission’s press office for more information about the ban and what UK farmers can expect.

Here are the commission’s responses:

1. What was the voting split among member states?

The commission’s proposal for a non-renewal of chlorothalonil submitted to the member states was indeed endorsed by the member states but the votes are not public. Member states are the ones that can confirm how they voted.

[Farmers Weekly understands that the UK voted against the non-approval of chlorothalonil]

2. What scientific evidence is the European Commission either using, or pointing to, that would justify a ban?

The proposal is based on the European Food Safety Authority’s (Efsa) scientific assessment, which concluded that the approval criteria does not seem to be satisfied for a wide range of reasons.

First, there are public health concerns for consumers: indeed Efsa cannot exclude genotoxicity concern of residues of this substance.

There are also serious environmental concerns, notably high risks are identified for fish and amphibians and great concerns are raised in relation to contamination of groundwater by metabolites of the substance.

The decision will be formally adopted in the coming weeks (late April/May) and enter into force three weeks later.

3. Can you provide clarity on use-up dates for growers? Also, what will happen in terms of manufacturers, such as Syngenta? Will there be a cut-off date for manufacture? 

The cut-off date will be included in the regulation when its adoption will be final (later this year; we can’t give a precise date at this point).

4. What is the EU’s stance on allowing imports of food products that have been grown with the use of chlorothalonil following the ban?

Like for all active substances banned – or whose use is restricted in the EU – a maximum residue level (MRL) will be applied on imported products from countries still using the active substance in question.

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