June 29, 2008

Tougher Stance on Pesticides May Threaten Sector’s Viability, Says Safety Directorate

By Sixsmith, Rachel

As the EU prepares new pesticide legislation, the UK industry expresses concerns over its potential effects New proposals on pesticide use by the European Parliament would render many horticultural crops "uneconomic to grow", a report by the UK's Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) has claimed.

The report assessed the impact that the proposed replacement to the Plant Protection Products Directive (91/414/EEC) would have on 300 widely used products.

Directive 91/414, which regularly reviews herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, has already resulted in dozens of products used by growers taken off the shelves since it came into force in 1993.

PSD concluded that the European Commission's (EC's) proposed replacement to this directive, which expires this year, could lead to the removal of some 15 per cent of these 300 substances.

However, it found that Parliament's more stringent version of the new regulation "could result in the loss of up to 85 per cent of those substances and make conventional commercial agriculture in the UK unachievable as it is currently practised".

The report went on to say: " If the full impact of the current Parliament proposals were realised, conventional commercial agriculture in the UK would not be achievable, with major impacts on crop yield and food quality."

Britain is one of the only countries to assess the impact of the proposed regulation, and has done so out of severe concern.

MEPs first voted in favour of the criteria in October 2007. The next stage is for the Parliament to give its second reading on the regulation, but it is currently trying to thrash out its differences with the EC. It is expected to make a final decision this autumn.

The criteria proposed by the EC are risk-based - meaning that if the risk of a pesticide being poisonous is only very low then it can be used sensibly. But the Parliament has taken a more severe stance and is calling for a hazard-based approach - meaning that if there is any hazard associated with a product it should be banned.

The PSD's report concluded that the Parliament's proposals would potentially see the removal of: all pyrethroids, which growers rely on to control caterpillars: pihmicarb, a very widely used aphicide in fruit and vegetable crops; and neonicotinoid seed treatments.

Strawberry growers, it revealed, would be among the worst- affected because the proposals would potentially leave no products for the control of black spot - while only fenhexamid and pyrimethanil would be left for Botrytis and bupirimate for powdery mildew.

PSD also expressed concern over the potentially severe Impact of the removal of so many products on resistance management and integrated pest management (IPM) on a global scale if resistance strains spread from Europe.

It said: "The scale and magnitude of the potential losses, particularly from the Parliament's proposals, would undermine both resistance management and IPM."

The NFU is now urging MEPs to re-think their policies. NFU horticulture board vice chairman Sarah Pettitt told Grower: "The message at the moment is that this is serious. The UK and Ireland are the only countries to have done an impact assessment.

"It's crazy that the rest of Europe is not waking up to it. What we will end up doing is importing produce from outside the EU with the same actives but fewer food-safety controls. We cannot cope as food producers with a hazard-based cut-off criteria - it must remain risk-based. If we manage to get everyone thinking similarly and understanding more, there's a good chance that common sense will prevail.

"There will be a call to action to growers. There's a lot of work to do between now and September."

Pettitt: Europe needs to "wake up" to threat of new proposals

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Jun 5, 2008

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