Sunday, 12 July 2009

Prior notification of spraying of agri-chemicals.


Some time ago I highlighted an article by Matthew Naylor. His comments frequently feature in Farmers Weekly in addition to his own blog, and he generally seems to reflect the ethos of the NFU. For this reason I thought I'd find his views on the consultation called by the NFU to notify neighbours before farmers apply agro chemicals to their crops. It is important to note that the consultation is taking place as a direct consequence of a landmark victory by Georgina Downs against the government(Nov.2008) over pesticide spraying.The High Court ruling stated that Downs had produced "solid evidence" that people exposed to chemicals used to spray crops had suffered harm.
Peter Kendall NFU president, said "whatever the outcome of the appeal, Defra Secretary Hilary Benn had made it clear "he is going to have to do something" about government policy on Pesticides.
Mr Kendall said "we would rather look at the best ways of reassuring people, without alarming them and without creating excessive bureaucracy for farmers, than just sit and do nothing and wait for unworkable regulation to be imposed upon us."

Anyway, Defra appealed the High Court judgement and the original decision was overturned.Georgina Down's press release following the reversal of the original judgement is reproduced in my previous post.
Matthew Naylor's article should be taken seriously because (despite being a bit of patronising hogwash) it indicates how the NFU and defra attempt to mislead the public. He makes several points, all of which are flawed,- it is not until his last paragraph that he pays lip service to the premise of the Georgina Downs case...that spraying of agri-chemicals is inherently unsafe for residents close to sprayed land. The rest of his article is based on a false debate of whether or not to inform neighbours before farmers apply agro chemicals to their crops. If pesticides present no risks to neighbouring residents, why bother to notify them of spraying? In suggesting this initiative Defra is implicitly admitting that pesticide spraying is unsafe for the public.
Unfortunately there's some confusion about whether or not it breaches copyright to reproduce the relevant post of Mr Naylor's blog, so if you want to read it try 'Say it,Don't Spray it-Mouth of the Wash.' My following comments are a response to this. 

Ok Mr Naylor, do you really think that by inviting people to your office for a coffee, or to look at your records etc, that they are going to be so baffled by science or so impressed by your admin. skills that they loose all vestige of common sense, or reasoning skills?
As for your comment that people get irritated by unsolicited information in their lives- this is true if it relates to some crap advertizing trivea, NOT if it relates to the possibility of they or their children being harmed by pesticide spray/vapour/ or residues. It is not up to the NFU to decide how much information to give the public about the pesticides they are breathing on a regular basis!

One of your so-called 'safety' regulations recommends the 'oh so considerate' practice of spraying adjacent to residents property when they are away at work--, do you really imagine that they would be happy to allow their children or toddlers to come home and play around on ground next to recently sprayed land? 'Out of sight, out of mind?"
Your comment comparing our situation with Chinese factories is too fatuous and irrational to bother with.
In conclusion, we are not impressed by your assertion that you operate within the law. As Georgina Down's evidence conclusively and convincingly showed,the law and legislation on this issue is fundamentally flawed. Your cynical assumption that your .."practices are safe for the consumer, the neighbour and the operator alike. If this is not the case. then there is something wrong with the regulations"... reflects your glimmer of realization of the truth. As things stand, your claim to be professional and civilized in the way you go about business, is ludicrous.
Instead of protective legislation for rural residents, Defra is offering prior warning of spraying so that people can try to protect themselves from agri sprays by going into their homes and shutting the doors and windows. If the house,/school/ is surrounded by agricultural land this could amount to days per week.Many farmers resent any restrictions on their bad practice however hazardous this might be to others, so they would be very happy to see others freedom curtailed rather than modify their own reckless actions.
Well, as a rural resident I shall be requiring prior notification of each spraying, and access to records together with full knowledge of all chemicals used on crops adjacent to my property. If I see any breach of the safety regulations, I will not be sitting on my hands. To Mr Kendall, I would say that the public are not a lot of children to be patted on the head and told that pesticides are not harmfull, just so that farmers need not be inconvenienced by bureaucracy.

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