Friday, 2 January 2015

Pesticide claim challenged

From the Big Issue in the North magazine

Banning pesticides will not increase food prices or damage the UK’s agricultural and horticultural sectors, says a leading soil scientist.
This follows the release of a report making these claims commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Crop Protection Association and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.
There have long been calls for pesticides to be restricted on environmental and human health grounds. Sandra Bell of Friends of the Earth claims there is “strong evidence” that some of the very pesticides the National Farmers Union is so keen to use are harmful for the bees and worms that are crucial for pollination.
The report, Healthy Harvest: the Impact of Losing Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on UK Food Production, says around a third of 250 approved PPPs are under long-term threat from “over-regulation” arising from these concerns.
It contends that restrictions “would make it more difficult to control weeds, disease and pests... leading to lower yield decreases of between 4-50 per cent in the crops studied”.
Hardest hit would be apples, fresh carrots, onions and frozen peas.
Lincolnshire vegetable farmer Mark Leggott claimed: “In the pea sector, poor weed control can lead to significant crop loss. Therefore, a wide range of herbicides is needed.”
Healthy Harvest concludes that £1.6 billion in farming profits would be lost from banning pesticides, leading to increased imports and higher food prices. Approximately 35,000-40,000 jobs would be lost, claims the report.
‘Massively exaggerated’
But Charlie Clutterbuck, a Lancashire soil scientist, believes the threatened numbers are “massively exaggerated, as the report provides no evidence that 87 PPPs are really threatened”.
He added: “It also presents as ‘undeniable facts’ some contentious claims, such as that damage to crops are caused by flea beetles when the evidence is pretty weak.
“This is a big debate that links closely to a chronic lack of investment in our land science research, such that three-quarters of our public field research stations are closed. These could have helped find alternative, often natural, ways of controlling bugs.”
Georgina Downs, who has campaigned for 13 years against pesticides, said. “Pesticides have been approved without any risk assessment to those living near sprayed fields.
“I have many reports of acute health problems that, by increasing demands on health services, also have an economic cost. We need a pesticides policy that places public health first.”
Downs wants tougher laws introduced to force farmers to inform residents in advance about spraying – but the NFU is opposed.
An NFU spokesperson said: “The report identifies that farmers strive to maintain
high standards when using pesticides. Agricultural sectors comply with strict legislative requirements, and through the voluntary initiative on pesticides we have in place a range of additional safeguards.”

Clutterbuck said: “We need to find the money to redevelop the UK’s public land science independent of major agro- businesses.”

No comments:

Post a Comment