Dr David Hessayon hits out at box-ticking approach for stifling gardeners

Author calls politicians to account for product bans caused by health and safety 'box-ticking'.

Expert garden series writer Dr David Hessayon has slammed the EU for stifling gardeners with box-ticking bureaucracy, which he said was diminishing the number of products available for controlling plant pests and diseases.

"If something is going to be banned, Government has to give a reason why it suddenly finds it is dangerous," he said. "It can't just say 'stop', especially for well-established products that have been around for a long time.

"My new bugbear is the growth of bureaucracy. Of course you should have some. The Government tries to ensure that your stuff is safe. To be honest, when I began in this industry there were sometimes areas where you needed more bureaucracy.

"But then the tide of regulations and rules and health and safety hit and the pendulum has gone the other way."

As an example of "silly and counterproductive rules", Hessayon described the launch of a bio-friendly insect spray for which the Government gave the following precautions to be used on the label: "In case of accidental splashes, wash off with soap and water."

"Why not just water? Because it had a box in the records that had to be ticked," said Hessayon.

"I was selling Derris in the 1950s. The EU suddenly decided a box had to be ticked, therefore it was banned out of hand in 2008. It was not sold much and no-one was going to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to tick those boxes. No trade association said: 'Please tell us what harm it's doing before you ban it.'"

He added that pesticide testing had "toughened up" since he helped bring Dithane to Britain from the USA and said he was glad that arsenic for agricultural use had been banned, as well as nicotine and mercury-based garden products.

Dr Hessayon was speaking at the Garden Centre Association annual conference. His latest The Complete Garden Expert compendium is out on 3 March, published by Transworld, at £11.99.

Expert guides - Growing up with garden centres

Dr David Hessayon said his roots were in the garden centre industry: "That is where the Expert series saga began."

Notcutts' building of a garden centre at Woodbridge in 1958 coincided with the first Expert, "so we grew up together".

He added: "The publishing industry had nothing to do with the guides. They were published by Pan Britannica Industries and sold by garden centres, nurseries, corn and seed merchants and ironmongers. It's a joy to see how you've developed from those little sheds."

It was added value that sold his books, such as sticking a free soil tester to the covers, he said. "You can't expect other gardening writers to sing their praises. It's the people who go through your tills I write for."

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