Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pesticides Consultation? Farmers talk through their booms.

In early Chinese tradition the 'human organism is a microcosm of the universe.'- interconnected with our environment, and with the entire ecological system. Unfortunately that's not how our government see things. They prefer treating the natural environment as seperate, unconnected parts to be exploited by different interest groups.

One of the macro/micro relationships between humans and our planet is the earth's network of rivers,streams and lakes, and our own circulatory system of arteries, veins and capillaries.Both these systems supply vital nutrients and oxygen, but there is a problem... any toxic chemicals which are found in our rivers can also find their way into our own bloodstreams in drinking water and food.
The chemical and biological state of our UK rivers, wetlands, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, is physically linked to the wider problem of pesticides in our soil, and air and food. In the Autumn of 2009 a report by the official pollution watchdog, the Environment Agency found that more than three quarters of our 6,114 rivers are expected to fail new European quality watchdog standards. The Farmers Guardian, (1/03/10) in an article titled "Farmers need to change approach on pesticides" lists the 'crop protection products' which have been discovered at "legislation-challenging levels" in water this winter. Slug pellet active ingredient metaldyde, and clopyralid were found, Both these chemicals are described as very soluble products which are very difficult or impossible to remove from water. Oilseed rape herbicides carbetamide, metazachlor and propyzamide were also found with above-limit peaks. To add insult to injury, the banned herbicide called isoproturon (IPU) has been found in Hertfordshire, through the Midlands to East Anglia, Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire.Levels of chlorotoluron, used instead of IPU have also risen to high levels. Nineteen active agricultural chemicals were detected by the Environment Agency in our rivers.
In reality pesticide pollution is damaging lives, killing wildlife and destroying the environment, whilst government puts big business interests above issues of human health and environmental damage. These problems exist because of the continual insistance by government and agribusiness that there is no problem with pesticide legislation or with the pesticides which are being used. The Crop Protectin Association insists that regulations of pesticides are rigorous. The ACP together with the NFU and DEFRA have resisted the new EU pesticide rules which have banned a significant number of hazardous pesticides. Pesticide Campaigners have highlighted the dangers to public health and the health risks posed for rural residents by pesticide spraying, but again the agri groups are doing all thay can to avoid modifying their bad practice.
Georgina Downs, Pesticide Campaigner has fought since 2001 to stop rural residents being exposed to pesticides. In 2008 she won a High Court victory....
"In November 2008, years of preparation and research paid off when a High Court judge agreed with her legal case,....claiming that the government had failed to safeguard residents from pesticides.Defra has argued that its approach to the regulation and control of pesticides was "reasonable, logical and lawful," but Mr Justice Collins found it failed to comply with a European directive and demanded Defra reassess its policyto protect residents exposed to toxins." (The Independent,Martin Hickman,16/2/10). Unfortunately this isn't the end of the legal battle because.." in July 2009 the Court of Appeal overturned the earlier judgement and referred to her lack of medical of scientific background." Georgina Downs is now determined to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Reacting to the appeal victory, Hilary Benn the Environment Secretary, stressed that the protection of people's health was "our priority". But he added: "In view of the issues raised by Georgina Downs and the new European Directive we will consult this Autumn on how to give people access to farmers spray records, how to give residents prior notification of spraying activity, and what else should be included, for example, monitoring and training." These measures would be woefully inadequate, but are also virtually useless in view of the fact that the NFU want everything to be on a voluntary basis,. hence the Voluntary Initiative.

So, we are expected to place confidence in farmers who seem to have no awareness of the dangers of chemical run-off into watercourses,and who spray illegally by using banned pesticides, not to mention all the other routine breaking of pesticide safety codes.
In Britain DEFRA,(Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has launched a consultation into how the UK will meet the European Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The consultation is addressing issues such as sprayer testing, training of operators and people testing pesticides, specific measures to protect water, aerial spraying and the promotion of integrated pest management.

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