Farmers who are not members of an assurance scheme are being warned they need to keep records of any plant protection products they use.
The warning comes after publication of DEFRA’s new statutory Code of practice for using plant protection products, which covers England and Wales. A Scottish version of the code is also being produced.
The 100-plus-page document confirms that a new law requiring farmers to keep records of any pesticide treatments now applies.
The rule has been introduced as a result of two new EU regulations which came into force on 1 January, 2006.
Neil Kift, NFU pesticide adviser, said the law would not impact on members of an assurance scheme, because they already kept detailed spray records.
But growers who were not assured should make sure that they recorded any plant protection products that they used, he said.
Dr Kift said the code, which replaces the old green, blue and orange codes, was easier to use than the old version and included helpful guidance on how to deal with spray spills or accidents.
He said the union was also interested to see a recommendation that anyone involved in drafting contracts – such as supermarket buyers – should have suitable training and experience in working with pesticides.
“This is an interesting addition to the code and we hope the supermarkets act on it,” said Dr Kift.
“Supermarket buyers need to understand the procedure and processes that growers go through.”
Peter Sanguinetti, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, welcomed the publication of the updated code.
“This sets out comprehensively all the legal and recommended practices for farmers and sprayer operators and is a valuable reminder of the need to use pesticides responsibly,” he said.
But Alison Craig, spokeswoman for the Pesticides Action Network, said the group felt that the code did not go far enough to protect walkers from pesticides.
Although it gives guidance on the steps farmers should take when applying pesticides near a right of way, it points out restricting people’s access is only possible in some instances.
“If pesticides are used, people should have the right to know what they are being exposed to – with prior notification and signs on-site,” she said.