Compiled by Rosemary Mason MB ChB FRCA on behalf of a global network of independent scientists, beekeepers and environmentalists 2014
The EC authorisation of GM Pioneer Maize, despite only 5 people voting for it out of 28 member states (19 against) is outrageous. Rosemary Mason MB ChB FRCA
Here is a snip from the 74 page linked report:
The existing UK Government policy and approvals system fundamentally fails to protect people in the countryside from pesticides, particularly rural residents
Georgina Downs has courageously fought legal battles against Defra on behalf of rural communities, who at that time (and still are) being regularly sprayed with pesticides. She had a landmark victory in the High Court in November 2008 that ruled that the UK Government’s policy on pesticides was not in compliance with European legislation. It was the first known legal case of its kind to reach the High Court to directly challenge the Government’s pesticide policy and approach regarding crop-spraying in rural areas. However, it was not for long. The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court Judgment in May 2009. Chief Executive, Kerr Wilson’s Witness Statements cited various reasons for preserving the status quo. They were related to alleged financial and economic impacts on manufacturers, farmers and distributors, or the impact on agricultural productivity. On behalf of Defra he did not display any concern whatsoever in relation to the protection of public health. His main concern was with protection of industry and business interests. “The annual market value of pesticide sales is approximately £490m which delivers benefits to farmers, significantly improving agricultural productivity”…“If, as a result of the Declaration, new approvals could not be granted, there would be important ramifications.” Some pro-industry Press reports at the time supported the Government’s stance; that if the High Court Judgment stood then the “Government’s pesticide policy would be fundamentally undermined” and that the policy and approvals system “might even grind to a halt.”
We found correspondence between Dave Bench, the then Head of Policy at CRD and Prof David Coggon Chairman of CoT. It was dated September 1st 2009. “Further to my letter dated 11 March 2009, you will be aware that a decision has now been delivered by the Court of Appeal. Although the decision of the Court confirms current policy is in line with EU requirements in this area, Ministers are still keen to continue their review of policy”.
At the bottom of the letter was inscribed CRD’s motto:
Chemicals Regulation Directorate – Protecting the health of people and the environment
Unaware of Georgina Down’s UK Pesticides Campaign for human health, at the start of our campaign for bee health on 6th January 2011, we had written an Open Letter to the Chemicals Regulation Directorate criticising the Government Response to EU Directive (2009/128/EC) on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. Needless to say, we had no reply.
Here is an extract in which we compared the UK Consultation and Government Decisions with the EU Directive Advice
The Consultation Summary was prepared by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive on behalf of Defra.
The following Press Release was issued: “As UK pesticides safety standards are already amongst the highest in Europe, only minor changes are necessary to meet the new requirements and no compelling evidence was provided in the responses to justify further extending existing regulations and voluntary controls.” Lord Henley, the Under-Secretary of State for Defra, expanded further on this statement: “We have to protect the public and the environment from harm and will do so by following sound scientific and other evidence. By making a small number of changes to our existing approach we can continue to help feed a growing global population with high-quality food that’s affordable – while minimising the risks of using pesticides”.
Furthermore, in a debate with Nick Mole, UK and European coordinator of Pesticides Action
Network (PAN-UK& EU), conducted on Radio 4’s Farming Today, Lord Henley said that the British had an “ideological dislike of legislation”, there were “dangers of over-legislating” and repeated his assertion that all decisions on the EU Directive (2009/128/EC) were based on “robust scientific evidence.”
We examined the responses to the document closely and discovered that, instead of strengthening the legislation, the responses of the UK government and the CRD had considerably weakened it. In the case of aerial spraying, the UK has opted for derogation.
We also observe that whilst the general background is given, the specific points made in the EU Directive seem to have been omitted. We have thus presented the EU’s specific points immediately before, so that it is possible to compare those with the Government responses.
Article 9 Aerial Spraying.
EU Directive Advice: Aerial spraying of pesticides has the potential to cause significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment, in particular from spray drift. Therefore aerial spraying should generally be prohibited with derogations possible where it represents clear advantages in terms of reduced impacts on human health and the environment in comparison with other spraying methods, or where there are no viable alternatives, provided that the best available technology to reduce drift is used.
Government Response: We do not consider that responsible application of pesticides by aerial spraying poses an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, and consequently we will use the derogation. We believe that the existing legislation control regime provides a basis for meeting the Directive and this will be adapted to ensure the continuation of properly regulated aerial applications through a consent-based approach.
[New guidance for aerial spraying was published on the Defra website in July 2012].
Article 10 Protection of water
EU Directive Advice: The aquatic environment is especially sensitive to pesticides. It is very necessary for particular attention to be paid to avoiding pollution of surface water and groundwater by taking appropriate measures such as the establishment of buffer and safeguard zones, or planting hedges along surface water to reduce exposure of water bodies to spray drift, drain flow and run-off. The dimensions of buffer zones should depend in particular pesticide properties, as well as agricultural characteristics of the areas concerned.
Government Response: Current statutory and voluntary controls related to pesticides and the protection of water, if followed, afford a high degree of protection to water courses and cover specific measures detailed in the Directive. The Government will primarily seek to work with the pesticides industry to enhance voluntary measures.
Our comment: Protection of the aquatic environment is absolutely critical in the case of the neonicotinoids, the undesirable properties of which the Dutch and US researchers have confirmed; their solubility that allows them to leach into surface water, the persistence of residues in aquatic environments, their acute risk to freshwater and benthic invertebrates.
Article 11 Use of pesticides in specific areas
EU Directive Advice: Use of pesticides can be particularly dangerous in very sensitive areas such as Natura 2000 sites protected in accordance with Directives 79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC. In other places such as public parks and garden, sports and recreation grounds, school grounds and children’s play grounds, and in the close vicinity of healthcare facilities, the risks from exposure to pesticides is high. In these areas, the use of pesticides should be minimised or prohibited. When pesticides are used, appropriate risk management measures should be established and low-risk pesticides as well as biological control measures should be considered in the first place.
Government Response: We do not consider it necessary to prohibit the use of pesticides in public spaces or conservation areas or to impose new statutory controls on pesticide use in these areas. We believe that the UK can meet its obligations under the Directive through existing statutory and voluntary controls and develop additional voluntary measures.
Plant Protection Products Regulation (PPP) (EC) No 1107/2009)
The consultation sought views on whether and how two specific provisions in the PPP Regulation should be implemented in the UK.
Article 31 included an optional provision that could allow future product authorisations to include obligation to provide advance notice to any neighbours who could be exposed to the spray drift and who have requested to be informed.
Article 67 concerns the keeping of records of pesticides, by both manufacturers and sellers. These are to be made available to a ‘competent party’, from which a third party may obtain it on request. The British Medical Association with regard to Article 31, wanted advance notification, so that vulnerable patients, such as those suffering from respiratory problems, may be alerted in advance of spraying.
Government Response: We do not believe that it is appropriate to introduce a statutory requirement for operators to give advanced notice of planned spray operations to members of the public living adjacent to sprayed land. We will continue to encourage farmers and spray operators to develop good relations with their neighbours.