Group fears UK is isolating itself over EU pesticide proposals

Fears that the UK is isolating itself from the rest of Europe through its campaign against controversial European proposals on pesticide use have been expressed by the Food Chain Group (FCG).

The group, led by the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and made up of 30 leading UK food, farming and retail organisations, was formed this summer to get across to European politicians, who will vote on the proposals, and other food organisations the message that they could cripple commercial food production in Europe.

It is calling for the European Commission to carry out a Europe-wide impact assessment on the proposals - to replace Plant Protection Products Directive 91/414/EEC - before a final vote on the legislation is taken this year.

An assessment by the UK's Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) predicted a worst-case scenario of 85 per cent of products - containing commonly used substances such as pyrethroids, pirimicarb, and neonicotinoid - being taken off the shelves.

Chairman Nigel Jenney of the Fresh Produce Consortium, which is carrying out a global lobbying campaign against the proposals, said at an FCG meeting last week: "The responses we have had to date from trade organisations and embassies have been very positive.

"What's quite interesting is that MEPs have responded in a less than robust way. They have come back (to us) with concerns about roll-out periods and derogations.

"Their perspective on this is that it's not a real issue because there are a few options in place that would allow the industry to adapt a number of products that are safe."

A British Retail Consortium representative added: "We are finding it hard to engage with large European retail groups ... to get them to understand the situation. We could not get support from France, for example. We are struggling because it's not seen as a European issue."

Another FCG member said: "The worrying thing is that they seem to think that manufacturers will find other active ingredients that will fit the criteria."

The current proposals include a limited derogation - temporary exceptions to legislation - for some substances, but the Commission has indicated that this provision will only be used in exceptional circumstances.

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