What has happened to the herbicide Gramoxone? Why can't I buy it?

Gramoxone has been used worldwide since the 1960s. A non-selective, non-residual contact herbicide that is not absorbed by bark, it has proved particularly useful in the UK for the stale-seedbed technique of growing forestry nursery stock and also for annual weed control in orchards, forestry and bulb production.

The active ingredient is paraquat. Paraquat is not considered a problem in terms of environmental safety - it binds quickly to the soil and leachate is not a serious issue. Residue measured in food is way below safety limits. Nevertheless, paraquat is highly toxic and there have been accidental poisonings. It is classed as a Part II poison under the Poisons Act and there is no antidote.

Having been placed on the EU's Annex 1 of the Directive 91/414EEC in 2003, it was then up to individual member states to approve the registration. That did not happen. Several declined registration and Sweden appealed against paraquat's inclusion in Annex 1. This bid was successful so the UK Pesticides Safety Directive (PSD) banned the advertisement, sale and supply of paraquat products from 12 September 2007. Users must use up existing stocks by 11 July 2008.

I understand that supplier Syngenta intends to apply for a new EU registration for paraquat, but this will take time and there is no guarantee the application will be successful. In the meantime I suggest you seek an alternative product, taking advice from a BASIS-registered consultant if needed.


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