NI committee calls for ban on OPs while review carried out
By Liz Mason
AN immediate ban on the use of organophosphate-based pesticides, while a government review is carried out into the use of OPs and OP poisoning, has been called for by a Northern Ireland Committee.
The recommendation, by the agriculture and fisheries committee of the Northern Ireland Forum, follows its inquiry into the use of OP insecticides by farmers.
It finds that the government has "dragged its feet over the various issues posed by the use of OPs and the effects of OP poisoning", and that "information provided by government over the years has been inadequate".
The forums report recommends government reviews all aspects of the use of OP compounds and OP poisoning, including licensing, conditions of use and the possibility of genetic transmission of the effects of OP poisoning without delay. It notes environment minister Michael Meachers call in 1996 for a moratorium on the use of OP products in sheep dips. More recently, at a Commons briefing, Goran Jamal, a leading expert on OP poisoning, has called for a halt on the use of OP-based pesticides.
"Dr Jamal indicated at this meeting that OP users could be at greater risk than previously thought. It is the committees view that it would be foolish to ignore the opinion of such an expert," the report states.
During its inquiry the committee received an assurance from the chief medical officer, Dr Campbell that a diagnostic centre to which OP sufferers could be referred by doctors "will be provided shortly".
"This news will be welcomed by all sufferers, who in the past have been required to travel to the OP diagnostic centre in Glasgow.
"However, the committee wishes to see a detoxification centre provided for the treatment of chronic OP poisoning cases and will press for such a centre," the report adds.
Elizabeth Sigmund, of the OP Information Network, welcomed the chief medical officers assurance that a diagnostic centre would be set up. "If they can do it in Northern Ireland for goodness sake, why cant they do it here?" she asked. *