Pesticide proposal needs assessment

Two weeks today, proposals concerning the registration of pesticides, which the UK's Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) warns would make many horticultural crops uneconomic to grow, are expected to begin their second reading in the European Parliament's committee for the environment, public health and food safety.

In a special report this week, we talk to professionals working across all aspects of horticulture about the likely impact of the proposed changes being drawn up in Brussels (pp4-5). Almost all agree that, at the very least, a comprehensive assessment of the impact of these proposals across Europe is essential before their progress is continued.

The changes that will be brought about by the proposals as they currently stand are potentially so far-reaching that it is unthinkable they could be ushered in without any such analysis.

An EC official has claimed that the UK PSD's case is overstated when it says up to 85 per cent of chemicals currently in use could be removed as a result of the proposed changes. But without carrying out an impact assessment itself, how can the EC know?

Many also point to the strong progress that has been made across the horticulture industry in managing any risks associated with pesticides - to the extent that the UK leads the way in Europe. Chemicals in use in the landscaping and amenity sector have been significantly reduced in recent years while best practice in their management has been promoted through schemes such as the Voluntary Initiative.

Meanwhile, excellent work is going on in the area of integrated pest management to find new solutions to age-old problems. But, as yet, biological controls being developed are only effective in certain situations - and rarely without some help from chemicals. In a telling moment, one biocontrol professional told HW he was hoping for a change of heart from Europe on the grounds that biocontrol by itself is not enough.

At a time when progress is being made, for the EU to pull the rug from under the industry's feet would be a travesty."We all agree with the responsible reduction of agrochemicals," says leading soft fruit grower Anthony Snell. "But we need an armoury to be competitive."

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