September 2, 2008

FPC Starts Worldwide Pesticides Campaign

By Sixsmith, Rachel

The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) is stepping up efforts to raise awareness worldwide of the global impact of EU proposals to introduce cut-off criteria and substitution of crop-protection products. The trade organisation, which represents the UK's fresh produce sector - including home-grown and imported products - is lobbying MEPs, embassies across the globe and worldwide trade associations to call for a comprehensive impact assessment of the proposals.

So far it has contacted 497 worldwide trade organisations and embassies, urging them to publicly oppose the proposals.

It believes that, without a full impact assessment, the European Parliament should reject the proposals when they go to a second reading this autumn.

FPC chief executive Nigel Jenney said: "At a time when we need to be encouraging people to enjoy more fresh produce and combat rising levels of obesity, we need to retain a range of products that allows the horticulture industry to provide good-quality healthy produce in a sustainable manner."

The proposals are a replacement for the Plant Protection Products Directive 91/414/EEC and at the very worst could, according to the UK's Pesticides Safety Directorate, lead to the removal of 85 per cent of the chemicals commonly used in horticultural and agricultural crops.

The FPC fears that the removal of widely used products could have global ramifications by posing a barrier to the international trade of fresh produce.

It is concerned that, as the pesticides in question would still be used in other parts of the world to control crop pests, weeds and diseases, any imported produce with minute residues of these products could be banned from the EU.

A number of MEPs who will be voting in October have already responded to the FPC's concerns.

Conservative MEP Robert Sturdy, who sits on the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee and its Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, said: "I will continue to fight against unnecessary proposals... the loss of up to 25 per cent of agrichemicals would be a disastrous blow to our agricultural committees at a time when farmers are facing ever- increasing production costs, bureaucratic burdens and global challenges."

Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: "The European Parliament, true to form, took some bad proposals from the [European] Commission and made them worse. After all, you get cheap headlines by saying 'MEPs vote to increase consumer protection' - if you don't happen to mention the effect on food prices and availability. Too often, MEPs revel in the exercise of power without responsibility."

Jenney said of the response: "We've had some encouraging responses from those we have approached, but we know that there is a considerable way to go to influence the outcome of the second reading by the European Parliament."

Chairman Professor Barry Dent of the Voluntary Initiative (Vl) which helps farmers and growers self-regulate pesticide use to minimise their impact on the environment - has warned growers that the removal of certain pesticides from the market will "set fresh challenges" for the organisation.

Speaking last week at the launch of the Vl's new crop protection management plan, he said: "New EU pesticide legislation may restrict the number of products available to farmers and growers, while new controls on [pesticides'] use may set more challenging standards than those already established by the Vl, which already go far beyond current legal requirements.

"These are regulatory issues that are very serious and are likely to have some impact on us."

He added: "Other [remaining] chemicals are going to show up often so we are going to have to think about that."

Jenney: industry needs products that enable it to produce food of high quality

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Aug 7, 2008

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