In January 1993 a campaign group in the south west of England, later to form the OP information Network, issued a newsletter to those who had been poisoned by organophosphates and individuals who were trying to help them.
The newsletter called "NAGNEWS" reported as follows:
Lord Zuckerman, speaking in the OP sheep dip debate in the Lords on December 16th 1992 said: "My Lords, before regulations were brought in in 1962 for the wearing of protective clothing when organophosphorous compounds were used in dips and for other purposes, is the Minister aware that there had been several fatalities? I was in fact chairman of a committee of inquiry set up to look into the matter before any regulations were introduced.
Can he tell us whether there have been any other fatalities since regulations were introduced dealing with the use of OP compounds?"
Answer from Earl Howe:
"My Lords, I am unaware of any fatalities. But the government takes these issues extremely seriously..."
The incoming Labour Government of 1997 also claimed to be taking the matter extremely seriously, with some Members of Parliament reportedly promising that the dangerous chemicals would be banned - when they formed the government.
However for reasons best known to themselves every effort has been made since that time to prevent the recognition of any adverse effects from the chemicals and sufferers are now accused of imagining the symptoms - even when the symptoms have been recognised by GPs and specialists and the poisoning has been confirmed by blood tests and other procedures.
Friends of the Labour government gained control of the legal cases in which the government itself became a co-defendant due to the approvals and licensing system.
As a lawyer stated in writing in one of the cases it was obvious that some "skulduggery" was afoot and no matter what the evidence there was no way that any of the cases in the group litigation would be heard in open court. As with the benzodiazepam, radiation, Gulf War Syndrome and vaccine cases, the recently introduced changes to the Legal Aid system denied the damaged, and often seriously disabled, plaintiffs their representation and all the cases fell by the wayside - no matter how just the claim.
Currently the UK's Medical Research Council is spending millions of UK pounds on "research" to discover if the organophosphorus chemicals can cause long-term chronic illness.
Anyone who can read biochemical and toxicological text books will already be able to understand the mechanisms involved and that the information now supposedly being "researched" has been known for some six decades.
This is why the Zuckerman Report is so important - and why questions should be asked as to how the very organisation which gave Lord Zuckerman the information upon which he based the comments about health effects in his report now claims not to know.
The observant reader of that 1951 report will have noted that it was merely the first part of a series.
The second part really has been hidden from view as no person has acknowledged its existence to date.
Since this article was written determined researchers have discovered that there is much more to this story.
In the UK an admission was made that there had been a second report and that it concerned residues in food. No mention was made of the fact that there were three reports produced by Lord Zuckerman in the 1950s.
Perhaps this is because the final report in the series was concerned with deaths in wildlife and domesticated animals caused by pesticide use?
Rachel Carson was much criticised for reporting just such effects in her book "Silent Spring" and yet the 1955 report by Lord Zuckerman lists numerous deaths of birds and mammals, even cattle and sheep, and admits to having had to conduct its own experiments because there was so little reliable information.
As the 1953 report states "Unfortunately, almost all the insecticides and weed-killers are toxic to forms of life other than the pests they were designed to control and, if improperly used, they may constitute a serious hazard, not only to domestic animals and many wild creatures, but also to man....."
When reading these reports it should be remembered that many of the chemicals used at that time were still approved even in 2003 and that although some of the more dangerous chemicals had been phased out Lord Zuckerman admitted that some of the newer products posed even greater risks. Illegal pesticide use and fake pesticides now increase the concerns.
Recent reports from the U.S.A. suggest that most poisoning cases in man today are caused by the newer pesticides.
It is important to note when reading these reports that at the time the predicted total acreage likely to require spraying with pesticides in the future was thought to be a mere "5 million acres in all, or about 10 per cent of our land" and only 150,000- 175,000 acres (60,000 to 71,000 hectares) of that involved cereal crops.
The report states "chemical weed control has become normal practice with cereals, more so perhaps than any other spraying technique, yet only 25-33 per cent of the total acreage is sprayed."
Although safety concerns had been expressed even at that level of use, in 2005 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution reported the estimated area sprayed on agricultural land and gave an average of five applications on 4.6 million hectares (11.3 million acres) of arable crops alone.
It should be noted that much of the 18.4 million hectares (45.4 million acres) of agricultural land in the UK is farmed intensively and that pesticides are also applied to much of that land, and upon roadside verges and waste land in urban areas.
The Royal Commission reported that over 30 million kilograms of pesticide active ingredients were applied to all UK crops in 2003.
In his 1953 report Lord Zuckerman refers to the treatment of grain for human consumption.
The report reads :-
The greatest threat of chronic toxicity would therefore arise from the widespread treatment with materials of group (ii) (d)[includes organophosphates] and (e) [included methyl bromide] of foods which form the major part of the nationís diet. In seeking information about this point we were immediately faced by the difficulty that, while we might be able to discover how the food we grow ourselves is treated, we were likely to remain incompletely informed about the previous history of the food we import, which is still 60 per cent of what we consume and which contains a large proportion of our staple foods.
26. Although we have not been able to obtain as much information as we should have liked about the proportion of different home-grown crops which receive spray treatment, such information as we have received shows that very little of our staple foods is treated with the materials comprised in group (ii) (d) and (e).
To quantify the extent that food grains were treated the report states that infestation of stored grains in the UK is less than that found in imported grains and so did not at that time require very much use of insecticides in store. "Only 40 per cent of our food is grown at home and only a fraction of this is ever treated by toxic chemicals at any stage. Of the 60 per cent that is imported little is known of the methods of treatment or of the chemicals used." Imports treated with methyl bromide at that time amounted to merely 0.5% of the total consumption and although it was admitted that reliable information was hard to find it was assumed that the risk to human health was small.
Compared with later years that is certainly the case and it is interesting to note that parliamentary answers in 1996 showed real reason for concern.
For just one of several of those chemicals in group (ii) (d), the organophosphates about which there was so much concern, the figures for its use in dust form alone grew from zero in 197 to 193 tonnes applied in store only to cereal grains such as wheat in 1990. In addition to that the liquid form of the product was mixed with some 270,000 tonnes of cereal grains and even more was mixed with oil seed crops.
Even those figures do not take into account the other organophosphate insecticides added to food grains in store.
This would not be as much of a concern had there been a full evaluation for safety for the product but this was not performed by the authorities until 1997, and even then information regarding the persistence of the chemical was not included in the evaluation.
So persistent is the chemical that a scientific laboratory was contaminated so badly that they had great difficulty finding a suitable solvent with which to decontaminate the equipment.
This may seem hard to believe until it is realised that the dust form was supplied in plastic bags, upon which was printed all the safety information and instructions for use. A farmer, having been tested and diagnosed as having been seriously poisoned by the chemical, requested one of the empty bags as evidence for his solicitor. A fellow farmer washed an empty bag thoroughly with warm soapy water, rinsed same with a running hose-pipe for several minutes, then hung the bag to dry for 24 hours in the fresh air.
The bag was then placed in a plastic bag, sealed and put in another plastic bag, sealed again and posted in a padded envelope to the poisoned farmer.
As the postman walked towards the poisoned farmer he knew what was in the envelope because he could smell the chemical through the packaging.
He telephoned the farmer who had sent the "clean" bag, wearing a gas mask because the fumes from the bag were triggering his symptoms of poisoning.
In 1997 scientists in the United States of America published a paper entitled "" in which they called for an immediate ban on the above chemical and all those in that chemical group.
Regulators in the UK referred to that paper as "a challenging document" but, despite being aware of that paper, and the suspect safety data, the chemical in its liquid form is still admixed with grain from human consumption to this day.
With concerns expressed even in the 1950s about the potential effects on the environment, and especially bees, of such relatively limited pesticide use it is increasingly difficult to understand why science has not linked the loss of birds and insects, including the essential pollinators such as bees, to the increasing use in high summer of the phosphoric acid pesticides combined with the loss of their food plants through the use of total weedkillers, which may also have direct insecticidal action.
As Lord Zuckerman reported in 1955 "they [pesticides] should be toxic only to specific pests. But absolute specificity is difficult to obtain, because many of the chemical processes which govern the living matter of plants and animals are the same. A chemical which will kill one kind of animal is therefore likely to kill another. Hence, in spite of the laboratory tests and field trials which precede the release of a new chemical for general use, it is to be expected that unforeseen and undesirable collateral effects may come to light only during a period of full scale introduction, or after several seasonsí use. The problem of deciding whether there may be undesirable long-term biological effects is, however, immensely difficult, since these have to be disentangled from those due to a variety of other factors which also influence the natural cycles of animal and plant populations."
As the Encyclopaedia Britannica stated in 1959 "It must be remembered that the symptoms of poisoning may be closely simulated by the symptoms of natural disease".
It could as equally be said that since poisons, like natural diseases, induce metabolic and organ failure, then poisoning mimics natural disease (e.g. OP poisoning mimics asthma, and poisoning by arsenic resembles cholera or bacterial food poisoning).
It is therefore difficult to determine if the reported increases in diabetes, cancers, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cardio-respiratory, and a host of other illnesses, or the decrease in bio-diversity, are the result of increased pesticide use or to any other environmental factor.
The reports by Lord Zuckerman in the 1950s raised similar issues to that of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, which can be downloaded from their web site at
What is perfectly clear in the Zuckerman reports of 1953 and 1955 is that he was under the impression that his recommendations HAD been acted upon and that they had been incorporated into the legislation.
" The risks run by the operatives who handle the poisons were dealt with in our first report (January, 1951), and our recommendations on measures by which these dangers could be minimized have now been incorporated in legislation. We have also dealt, in our report to Ministers, of May, 1953, with the possible hazards run by the person who eats food which, at an earlier stage in its production, was exposed to some toxic chemical. Here, too, steps have been taken to implement our main recommendations."
The following links will lead you to the text of the Zuckerman Reports of 1951,1953 and 1955 as scanned from the poor photocopies available.
The 1951 Report on the effects of pesticides on workers
The 1953 report on residues in food
The 1955 report on the effects on wildlife and the environment
Dated 4/8/2008 Updated 30/09/2008
Go to top
Return to Front Page; Return to OP file; Return to latest updates;