Green tape holds back new pesticides

By Andrew Blake

UK GROWERS are being denied useful pesticide products because of tighter green tape.

Pesticide makers are becoming annoyed that new chemicals are not reaching the market as fast as they might.

There is also concern that the UK is over-zealously applying approval rules.

Products including a cereal fungicide, two novel herbicides, and seed treatments to combat Take-all are all believed to be affected.

An explanation could be that regulators granting five-year provisional UK authorisation for new active ingredients are trying to second-guess EU requirements for getting the chemicals onto the Annex 1 list under EC Directive 91/414, the British Agrochemicals Association believes.

One leading manufacturer claims UK adherence to the directive is already among the strictest within Europe.

But a stream of new EC guidance and the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) very conscientious approach to approvals is causing unwarranted delays, claims a spokesman.

A single scientific paper raising fresh doubts about a chemicals effects on the environment can be enough to delay provisional approval, he says.

“The regulators are pushing up the ante, and once standards have been raised they never come down.”

MAFF is unconcerned because it considers the industry already has sufficient agrochemical tools to hand, he adds.

A cancelled January meeting of the new ACP, because its make-up was still undecided, has added to the problem, says the BAAs regulatory affairs manager David Priestley.

The next meeting will not take place until this month at the earliest, leaving the approval of several products in limbo.

Companies making parallel applications in other EU countries have found it much easier to get products on to foreign markets, notes Mr Priestley.

“In the UK there seem to be increasingly more reasons to refuse provisional authorisation.

“And where there are environmental issues, we are seeing more use of the precautionary approach.

“Where there are outstanding issues, the ACPs interpretation of the rules is becoming more strict.

“The BAA argues that we need a sensible balance, and at the moment we are in danger of losing it.

Gearing up for sales in time for the spring market is tricky until the MAFF approval number for inclusion on the label is granted, notes another manufacturer.

“We are in a period of change,” acknowledges Mr Priestley.

“Data requirements are becoming more formalised, and there is less discussion with regulators about how those requirements can be met.”

A joint working group with the Pesticides Safety Directorate is being set up to explore ways of improving the science behind BAA members approval applications.

“We shall be meeting shortly – certainly within the next month.”

Several of the products held up in the approvals pipeline are ideally suited to the governments policy of minimising pesticide use, he notes.

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