Many of the amenity sector's commonly used chemicals could be banned within two-to-three years, attendees at the Amenity Forum conference heard this month.
Two-hundred delegates gathered in Leicester on 15 October to discuss best practice in the sector. Discussions covered a long list of at-risk chemicals as well as new options on the table and different methods of integrated pest management.
SRUC crop-protection scientist Dr Andy Evans predicted that over the next two-to-three years people will lose chemicals they have used for decades. Among them are the weedkiller 2,4-D, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified as "possibly carcinogenic", and commonly-used synthetic pyrethroid cypermethrin, which is likely to be banned due to being an endocrine disruptor. The loss of glyphosate would also be "a really big blow", he added.
While the EU will only ban a few substances, it could also "really go to town, and if they have any slightest doubt about the pesticides available, they will put it on the banned list".
But Evans said the sector should not panic because much work is being done on alternatives including a growing toolbox of biopesticides. Both Bayer and Syngenta have bought into the biopesticide market, which is growing at a rate of 15 per cent per year, compared to three per cent for the chemical sector. He suggested that the best way to prepare for the changes will be to have a strong integrated pest management strategy that takes account of all possibilities.
Grant Stark from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate agreed that the sector is about to enter a period of potentially "radical change in availability of pesticides". The UK has fewer regulations on pesticide use than the EU because it has given the industry leeway to police itself, but Stark said that approach is "a difficult sell" when he meets with sceptical EU officials.
He praised those present for their commitment to high standards, including their use of the Amenity Assured label. But he warned that there is "still a great deal of work to be done" and the UK needs to prove the industry-led approach to pesticide management is effective or it risks a much stronger clampdown from EU legislation.
Ensuring that all sprayers comply with the EU Sustainable Use Directive, which requires professional pesticide users to be certified from 26 November this year, is just the start, said Stark. He also called for amenity operators to engage with ongoing continuing professional development to show that they are up-to-date with best practice.