Farmers Weekly SOS

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“Save Our Sprays” – the plea from Farmers Weekly Magazine. Are they serious? Do the multinational chemical companies actually need a helping hand to fight against EU pesticide reform?

Poor old Monsanto and friends! In fact this review of harmful substances has been on the cards for a long time, so this latest bandwagonning seems rather desperate.

FW make big hypothetical statements “…the EU Commission could wipe out 80% of pesticides…” but other bodies reckon a 15% deselection of the most harmful compounds is more likely, leaving farmers with a considerable arsenal of poisons if they wish to use them. (UK agency the PSD made estimates ranging from 15% to 85%.)

But why the campaign to continue spraying a cocktail of biocides on our food, polluting people, water and soils? The Daily Mail recently quoted Prof Vyvyan Howard, toxico-pathologist at the University of Ulster, and a member of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, who said, ‘It has been my position for many years that a precautionary reduction in the levels of the most hazardous pesticides by substitution makes good sense.’

Pesticides that could be banned include a family of fungicides used on cereals called triazoles thought to be hormone disrupters, a potato fungicide mancozeb linked to cancer, and the insecticide family of pyrethroids – which can affect the human nervous system.

Pesticides are a sort of addiction for the ‘modern farmer’ – a habit pushed by the chemical companies who sell them fertilisers too. Actually chemical fertilisers nowadays seem to be less and less economical and sustainable because they use so much fossil fuel. And their effect is often fast, sappy growth, making crops more vulnerable to attack from pests… which forces farmers to resort to pesticides as a matter of course.

If you would rather choose an organic future, take a look at our website and online shop.

READING AROUND…
> an interesting discussion about this recently on Radio 4.
> Blog site ‘Not Delia’ discusses the SOS campiagn

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3 Responses to “Farmers Weekly SOS”

  1. philip clarke Says:

    Your article contains many inaccuracies and falsehoods, which I feel obliged to correct.
    For a start, our SOS Campaign (yes, I am from Farmers Weekly), is about representing our readers – mostly farmers – and has nothing to do with supporting multinational chemical companies who are quite capable of representing themselves.
    As you say, the issue of pesticide use and pesticide approvals has been on the cards for a long time – and we have been writing about it for a long time, not “desperately jumping on the bandwagon”.
    You seem confused about the range of pesticides that could be affected. The estimates are from the independent UK Pesticides Safety Directorate, which says that 15% of current chemicals would go under the legislation already agreed by the EU Farm Council, but this could rise to 85% if the European Parlaiment’s proposal prevails. The reality is that it will be somewhere between the two figures.
    The thrust of our argument is that, the legislation is being pushed through without any impact assessment being done – to properly understand what exactly will be the effects of removing large quantities of pesticides on the availability and affordability of food.
    We also question the principle of banning products because they are potentially hazardous. The current system of licencing evaluates risk, not hazard, taking into account how pesticides are used, and in what quantitites. Just because something is potentially hazardous (such as crossing a road or drinking vodka) does not mean it is dangerous.
    Our view at Farmers Weekly is that, of course, we need regulation and vigilance when it comes to pesticide use. But pesticides play a vital role in producing sufficient quantities of food for a hungry world. Banning them in the EU would only increase our dependence on imports, from countries which will continue to use exactly the same pesticides anyway. The tremendous response we have had to our on-line poll and petition shows that the majority of UK farmers agree.

  2. sheepdrove Says:

    Hi Philip,
    Thanks for the comment. Not sure about inaccuracies and falsehoods, but a different perspective, certainly. We have added a link to the PSD.
    ( http://www.pesticides.gov.uk )

    Readers – please click on the FW links above, to see their full viewpoint for yourselves.

  3. philip clarke Says:

    One inaccuracy I was concerned about was your suggestion that Farmers Weekly is cosying up to the chemical industry, when our motivation is to represent the majority of our readers on this issue.
    The falsehood I had in mind was your definition of pesticides as “an arsenal of poisons” which I consider to be alarmist and inflammatory language.
    Apart from that, thanks for the opportunity to comment!

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