Gordon Brown opposes EU anti-pesticide policy

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has expressed his concern that impending changes to EU pesticide rules will damage food production, without benefiting human health or the environment.

Responding to a letter sent by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture in November, Mr Brown said he shared the industry’s concerns about the impact removing large numbers of pesticides would have.

He regretted the fact there had been no proper EU-wide impact assessment and would “continue to stress the need for a proper understanding of the impacts for the whole community as the negotiations progress”.

The Prime Minister said he welcomed the fact that the European parliament’s environment committee had at least moderated its position since its first reading, which would now have a reduced impact on pesticide availability.

“I have little doubt that they changed their position because they were better informed about the impacts that their amendments might have,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we remain concerned that the European parliament’s committee is continuing to press for changes which could damage agriculture and food production without securing meaningful benefits for health or the environment.”

Informing the European parliament of the potential impact of its proposals has been a central tenet of the Farmers Weekly Save Our Sprays campaign.

A petition signed by over 1700 farmers and agronomists was presented to the parliament by Farmers Weekly in October, and a summary of our campaign and our concerns sent to all MEPs on the environment committee in November.

Since then, negotiations have continued in Brussels between the European parliament, the EU Commission and the French presidency, to try and thrash out an accord on the new rules for licensing pesticides.

These so-called “trialogue” meetings are still ongoing, with the French presidency and EU Commission reluctant to introduce additional “cut-off” criteria, as demanded by the MEPs.

Meanwhile, the UK Pesticides Safety Directorate has published a new impact assessment for the UK, suggesting that between 14% and 23% of current pesticides are still at risk, including many triazoles – crucial for fighting septoria – and the active ingredient mancozeb, crucial for controlling potato blight.