MRL legislation hits UK growers

Growers who are waiting to hear the extent of Europe's stringent new pesticide laws have been hit by another blow - this time in the form of new legislation on maximum residue levels (MRLs).

A number of pesticide products for use on specific crops have been taken off the market ahead of the introduction of Europe's new MRLs regime, Regulation 396/2005.

The majority of these products are for use on vegetable crops.

The regulation comes into force at the beginning of September to harmonise MRLs across Europe.

Until now, each member state, including the UK, has set its own MRLs for pesticides - but from September everyone will have to abide by the MRLs set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Fortunately many of these new MRLs are already in line with those set by the UK's Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) - and so many of this country's pesticide products will remain in use.

But some, according to the PSD, are "below the levels necessary to sustain specific UK-authorised uses" - so must be revoked.

A PSD representative said: "The PSD has been involved in an extensive exercise, comparing MRLs set with those needed, to identify the uses at risk starting with the first tranche of MRLs published.

"This first-tranche exercise is now complete, and we have identified a number of UK product uses that must be revoked because their use will breach the new MRLs."

This first tranche comprises both on-label and specific off-label approvals (SOLAs) and includes:

- the active fluazifop-p-butyl, used in several (now revoked) products - such as Fusilade Max for use on bulb onions (outdoor only), carrot (outdoor only), combining pea, linseed and vining peas;

- Centaur for use on leeks, which contains the active cyproconazole;

- the active metaldehyde when used in products for potatoes and cauliflowers, including Certis' slug pellet product Trigger;

- several SOLAs for use on kale, collards (including spring greens), outdoor choi sum and pak choi that contain the active tebuconazole - including Orius and Folicur.

A second batch of products will be revoked later this summer and the PSD has released a series of "intent to revoke" notices to warn growers of what is in store.

Products so far under this "intent to revoke" list include Betanal Flow for use on outdoor leafy brassica crops grown for baby leaf production and lettuce, and Switch for use on parsley, chervil, herbs, chives and beet leaves (chard).

HDC technical manager Vivian Powell said that the HDC has been working with PSD to try to get the higher MRLs needed to get some of the lost products back in use.

She told Grower: "We are hopeful that we might be able to reinstate some - but not for some time because the current legislation does not allow for rapid amendment of MRLs.

"It would have been helpful if they had amended the MRLs in December - at least that way it would not have hit growers at the end of the growing season."

She added that growers should be careful of residues if they have treated their crops before 1 September: "I am sure there will be an understanding but we do not want to end up with any misunderstandings in the media."

- See www.pesticides.gov.uk/food_safety.asp?id=2492


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