Comments on the proposals for the Thematic Strategy on Sustainable Use of Pesticides.

20th July 2007

Lauri Bland,
Pesticides Safety Directorate,
Mallard House,
Kings Pool,
3 Peasholme Green,
York, YO1 7PX

Dear Ms Bland,

I write as an individual with experience of many aspects of pesticides, from professional use, through poisoning by the misuse of others and having had the need to check the claims made for the safety of pesticides using recognised laboratory analysis. I do not represent the views of any organisation and do not regard myself in any way as a “campaigner”.
I simply seek the truth.

My responses to the specific questions follow.

Do you agree that adoption of this Regulation should not take place until the outcome of agreement of the text on measures developed under the Thematic Strategy and completion of the (HArmonised environmental Indicators for pesticide Risk) HAIR project?
Although harmonisation across the community is probably desirable there should be no delay in implementing measures to protect public health and the environment. Theoretically there are already measures in place under national legislation that should have prevented many of the problems that have triggered these policy reviews but it is clear that there has been failure to enforce those regulations.
Measures in this regulation should be adopted as soon as practically possible.

Do you agree that sales and usage data should refer only to those products requiring authorisation under the relevant plant protection products legislation?
Care should be taken to ensure that no chemicals escape control under this legislation through loopholes in the legislation. An example is the use of pesticides as additives in food and feedstuffs. Although the chemicals fulfil the criteria for the definition of food additives they escape the requirement that all food additives should be declared on labels simply because they are pesticides, and yet in many cases the chemicals are actually more dangerous than other additives that must by law be declared on food labels.
Product labels often regard food treated by pesticides as having the potential to cause harm to wildlife or even to man if other foods are contaminated, and yet these additives escape pesticide legislation from the moment they are added to food.
There is a similar problem with some veterinary medicines that are actually pesticides but fall under different legislation even though the disposal of spent chemical is performed in similar ways to those of pesticides with serious adverse effects often seen in the environment as a result.

Do you support the collection of sales data?
Accurate data is essential if a workable policy is to be formulated. The problem is to find a method which will provide an accurate record not only of sales but also of use of product. Often sales figures do not represent actual use. The problem of “grey imports” or the use of illegally imported pesticides is recognised and some means must be found to both prohibit those imports and to ensure that all chemical use is accounted for in the data. It is the use of pesticides rather that the amount sold that is important and often farmers and growers will not use, store or return, purchased chemicals due to weather changes or other unforeseen circumstances. Sales data indicate rather than confirm pesticide use but that information is easier to obtain than quantities actually used, depending on the data source.

Do you agree it is appropriate to collect sales data directly from pesticide manufacturers? For the reasons given above the data supplied by the manufacturers is unlikely to be sufficiently accurate. In addition with information from sales and use it will be possible to obtain information indicating the volume of chemicals that have been disposed of but not applied to crops. This data may well become important in regard to waste management and recycling in the future.

Is the Government estimate of 6 hours of additional time for industry in preparing information relating to sales reasonable?
Surely industry already collates such information. It is hard to believe that they do not have sales figures for each country, or region. There is also a requirement on growers to keep records of use of pesticide and veterinary products and this could be incorporated in the annual returns.
No matter what the data source there must be a requirement for accuracy and it is clear that this is lacking even at user level.

Can we use/develop existing data collection exercises to generate this information on sales to the UK market? As above. There are so many compulsory forms that growers must complete and they already have to keep records. It would be straightforward to add sections for pesticide use to those forms. For those who use minimal quantities of pesticides the workload will be lower but for those who choose high input methods it will obviously be more time-consuming.

Can we use/develop existing data collection exercises to generate information on sales to other member states (this assumes UK companies supplying other member states would be required to supply sales data to regulatory authorities in those member states). Do you have any information on the number of companies which may be affected and any views on the potential costs to UK companies supplying this information?
As mentioned above sales do not provide accurate indication of use but surely there are already import/export statistics for the legal cross-border movement of pesticides? How will the illegal movements be monitored and if they are not then how accurate will the sales data be?
Why should the companies selling these products not have to cover the cost of monitoring those sales?
It seems logical that they should pay towards the health monitoring and treatment costs in addition to the monitoring of their own sales, data for which any competent business would have in any event.

Do you agree that it is appropriate to collect information only on agricultural uses of plant protection products?
It is important that data on all uses of pesticides is collected since amenity use and use by amateur growers also involve considerable volumes of product and there are growing concerns about the impact of those uses on health and the environment. It is for example surprising that supermarkets are able to sell pesticides, which are often stored, sold, and transported in direct contact with foodstuffs.

What are your views on moving to a 5-yearly reporting cycle for pesticide usage?
5 years is too long to detect trends and there is more potential for the data to be grossly distorted with little opportunity to check the figures for accuracy. It would be easier and more accurate to collect that data on an annual basis. To suggest that this would be too difficult or costly is to overlook the fact that growers have been forced to supply detailed information on an annual basis for many years with no thought for the cost, despite the fact that few, if any, farmers have the level of resources that are available to the chemical industry.

What are your views on the need to collect data on crops receiving 75% of the quantities of active substances sold?
Either the authorities require accurate information or they do not. It is important that data is complete and that there is a requirement for it to be complete and accurate otherwise there is a potential for vital information to fall through gaps in the litigation and not reach the attention of decision makers.
Nothing less than 100% should be the requirement and if that is not possible the data will be corrupted.

Do you support the Government view on confidentiality of data?
The only reason for data confidentiality is to limit liability in the event of problems.
Although the excuse is that commercial confidentiality is needed to protect the manufacturers this represents misleading information since any chemical manufacturer will have the analytical methods necessary to obtain formulation details even with the protection afforded by patents.
This is evident in worldwide reports indicating that products purporting to be genuine but which, in fact, are produced by alternative manufacturers are available to growers. An example recently was the import into the EU of the Chinese version of Roundup for which restrictions had to be imposed. It is the victims of poisoning who are disadvantaged by the commercial confidentiality of the formulations since many active ingredients behave differently in the presence of certain co-formulants.
Without that knowledge many cases of poisoning remain officially unrecognised.
Openness is required for safety and therefore the confidentiality suggested is a retrograde step.

Do you support the Government view that member states be afforded maximum flexibility to develop the most appropriate methodologies?
How “flexible” is “flexible”?
The regulations should not allow individual countries to opt out of any regulations that protect health. To allow this would be foolish since the open trade of goods across borders within the EU mean that contaminated product or foods pass from one area to another.
If one country has the evidence sufficient to withdraw a product then the same evidence must be available to all other nations. This is one of the dangers in allowing products cleared by one country to be used in all others since it is quite feasible that one country may not have the strength of purpose to restrict dangerous products and may therefore be used to force dangerous products on to the rest of Europe.
There must however be room for individual nations to account for the climatic difference that can make certain chemicals more dangerous in one area than they may be in another.
Trust is required but trust is not a guarantee of safety.

I believe that the regulatory authorities should find a way to check the accuracy of the data supplied by the chemical industry in regard to pesticides and certain veterinary products.
It is no longer sufficient to simply quote data without ever having checked to ensure that it is actually as representative as the providers suggest.
I have repeatedly been supplied with data about certain chemicals, which was later proven to be completely inaccurate. All attempts to have that data checked officially have failed.
As a result users and food processors remain ignorant of the increased risk posed by the chemicals and this endangers the health of the public both here in the UK and in countries to which our products are exported. It is to be hoped that those involved will show some concern but there is no evidence of such a commitment to public health as yet.
Perhaps the EU is the only body willing and able to ensure that the UK cares for the health of its people?
The Government professes to employ the principle that “the polluter pays” and since chemical manufacturers are those who create the products that cause the pollution then they should carry the burden of all the related costs, including monitoring, clean-up and health costs.

Yours sincerely,

Dated 20/07/2007    Updated 20/02/2016

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