The government is being urged not to scrap two key committees responsible for providing independent advice on pesticides, because it could undermine public confidence.
Senior officials at DEFRA, HSE and the Chemicals Regulation Directorate have indicated that the future of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) and the Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) could be at risk because of cost-cutting.
Six key UK farming and food chain organisations, led by the Crop Protection Association, have joined forces to highlight the importance of the committees.
In a joint letter to DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman, the six organisations have highlighted the critical role of both committees in ensuring public confidence in the regulation and use of pesticides.
“Modern crop protection products have a key role to play in safeguarding the quality, availability and affordability of our food supply,” said Dominic Dyer, CPA chief executive.
“But the use of pesticides remains a high profile area, which can involve sensitive and emotive issues and is regularly subjected to public scrutiny. It is therefore important to be able to demonstrate that the processes inplace to control their registration and use are scientifically robust and transparent, particularly at a time of heightened concern over food security and rising food prices,”
“We recognise that ministers face tough spending decisions, but it would be false economy to do away with the bodies which have helped make such significant progress in improving the level of public confidence in pesticide controls,” said Mr Dyer.
A DEFRA spokesperson said that in line with the coalition Government’s commitments, DEFRA was examining its large network of arms-length bodies and had already made announcements with regard to the future of the bodies including the Commission for Rural Communities, the Sustainable Development Commission and the merger between the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
“The Secretary of State will continue to look closely at other DEFRA arm’s length bodies and will make any further announcements once this process has completed,” she added.
The six organisations who have written the letter are the Crop Protection Association, Agricultural Industries Confederation, BCPC, Country Land and Business Association, Fresh Produce Consortium and National Farmers Union.