July 9, 2008

Banned Pesticides

CONTRARY to the assertion of Struan Stevenson that there is "no substantive scientific evidence" that the pesticides banned by the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers cause cancer, each of the substances banned has been found to pose a significant risk to human and environmental health by numerous studies.

Mancozeb, for example, has been shown to induce thyroid follicular cell tumours and interfere with the production of thyroid hormones.

Exposure to triazoles has been linked to a variety of hormonally responsive cancers, including ovarian cancer, and one triazole, atrazine, has been shown to cause deformities in amphibians even at contamination levels as low as parts per billion. That these chemicals are to be banned despite their popularity is an indictment of the hazard they pose to humans, wildlife and the environment.

I am a third-year PhD student at Imperial College, London, studying the risk assessment of pesticides. There are strong financial incentives from chemical companies and other facets of agribuisness to maintain the status quo, but these should not be allowed to compromise the health of human beings or the environment.

The prohibition of these chemicals may cause some inconvenience, but there are alternatives that can be used in most cases and this legislation strengthens the incentive to develop safer compounds, so catastrophic yield reductions are highly unlikely.

Rather than lobby to continue the use of these chemicals, we should be encouraging our farmers to adopt approaches that minimise or eliminate pesticide use, such as using blight resistant potato varieties, encouraging the development of safer chemicals and providing the funding for agricultural land use research suggested recently in this paper by the chief executive of the Scottish Agricultural College, Professor Bill McKelvey, so that we can ensure a sustainable, secure food supply in the future.

Rebecca McKinlay, 7 Winders Road, Battersea, London.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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