July 31, 2008
If Plant Protection Goes Ahead How Do We Feed Ourselves?
Last week we saw the long-awaited announcement by Government on the nitrates directive.
Lobbying over the past few years has been more intense on this legislation than many others.So much so that the Minister still highlights the 600-plus responses received. Most of these were from farmers and it really did outline to Government the level of concern and secured changes. There will be many column inches on the intricate details.
There are winners and losers. The Government has dropped proposals for cover crops which is welcome news for arable and horticultural producers in the county.
However, the proposals also affect the livestock sector and are less palatable.
The NFU has long warned Government that its ideas to extend closed periods, to require significant capital investment in slurry storage and extend the area of the country designated as a nitrate vulnerable zone would have a significant and adverse impact on large numbers of livestock producers, especially dairy farmers.
The Government decision will bring about major and disproportionate costs for these struggling businesses which, like everyone else, are trying also to grapple with the huge hike in production costs and fuel.
Lurking around the corner in Brussels is another more insidious set of proposals aimed at plant protection products.
These are basically essential to conventional farming if you want to produce wholesome food that it is not eaten by the bugs or rotted off by fungi.
The EU's proposals are reviewing the regulations that approve the use of pesticides across Europe. The key issue is that the European Commission has now agreed that in future all approvals will be hazard-based. If everything in the EU was hazard-based we would not be allowed to drive cars, go swimming, drink water or cross the road.
If these proposals are agreed we face the widespread loss of plant protection products that have been safely and widely used for many years. We will face huge problems controlling weeds, pests and diseases in our crops.
How are we supposed to feed ourselves? Imported food is not the answer.
Guarantees that it is produced to the same exacting standards cannot be given. It is likely to have been produced with the aid of pesticides that the EU consider hazardous and has banned! And what will this do to the price of food?
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