Wednesday, 27 July 2016

No celebrations

Unpublished piece that was submitted to Landworker magazine.

Georgina Downes, the person who has done most to highlight the dangers to rural residents of being exposed to cocktails of poisonous pesticides when crop fields are sprayed, was in no party mood at the New Year. 

This was because the Honour's List, long associated with rewarding obscure celebrities, Tory sponsors, dodgy businessmen and outright failures, included an MBE for Paul Hamey. Be honest you've never heard of him. Yet according to the HSE he got the award for "developing a harmonised European guidance... that will increase protection for those who come into contact with potentially harmful pesticides.”

But as Downes points out Hamey, and the regulators who have followed him globally, has relied on a model of a short term few minutes exposure of just one pesticide. This means pesticides, of which around 2,000 are currently approved in the UK, get nodded through without any serious assessment of the health risks for those living in  sprayed areas. The truth is that exposure for rural residents is long-term, chronic, cumulative, and involves innumerable mixtures of pesticides being used on crops.

When Downes took the Government over its policies to court - where she revealed how numerous residents had suffered major health problems that cost the NHS billions of pounds to try and alleviate - it was Hamey who represented DEFRA. 

Downes said it was " reward an official directly involved in a flawed policy...It sinks the Honours list to a new low." She hopes that in time Hamey will be stripped of his award and asks "how can officials be rewarded in the first place?"

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