Pesticide checks on water 'inadequate': Independent 'crop doctors' should dispense chemicals, report says
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 15 November 1993
The report published today says present regulations on pesticides are 'partial and fragmented' with the result that consumers are being asked to pay millions of pounds in water charges to remove pesticides or to accept lower standards for clean water.
Pesticides should be sold through a prescription system similar to the way drugs are dispensed by the National Health Service, according to a report by the Centre for Rural Economy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
'Crop doctors' who are independent of the pesticide industry could be licensed to dispense pesticides and offer advice to farmers on the best methods of pest control.
'Such a system would mean advice on crop protection would be divorced from the selling of pesticides,' the report says.
'The bulk of advice which farmers receive about pesticide application comes from the representatives of agrochemical suppliers. This situation may well have encourged greater use of pesticides.'
The report adds: 'Currently, as soon as an adviser is called on to a farm, non-chemical pest control strategies are almost inevitably closed off. The term 'crop protection' has been appropriated by the chemical industry, but there are a range of alternatives to 'chemical' crop protection.'
Crop doctors could also help to monitor the use of pesticides, which is carried out under a system that primarily relies on testing for the chemical pollutants once they have entered the water supply.
Neil Ward, one of the researchers who compiled the report, said: 'More attention needs to be addressed to the root causes of the problems which pesticides cause rather than clearing up afterwards.'
Consumers are paying for the removal of pesticides through higher water bills but tighter controls on the use of the chemicals might provide a cheaper solution, he said. 'This would mean the polluter would have to bear the cost. It would also address the underlying causes of the problem rather than its symptoms.'
Currently there is little scientific agreement on the dangers posed by the relatively small amounts of pesticides that seep into the water supply.
Some water companies in the United Kingdom have not been able to meet the limits set by the European Union's 1980 Drinking Water Directive with the result that the Government is pressing for these standards to be relaxed.
The Newcastle study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, concluded that these standards should not be changed 'on the grounds that there is uncertainty over toxicity levels and merit in the precautionary principle'.
It also pointed out that most people do not want pesticides in their drinking water, even if they are told the levels are safe.
An underlying problem of pesticide control is the emphasis placed on the need to satisfy the agricultural industry, the researchers say. 'The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food exercises overall control of the regulatory system, and the interests of agriculture and agribusiness seem sometimes to be favoured at the expense of water consumers and the general water environment.'
Water Pollution from Agricultural Pesticides, Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University; pounds 10
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamaphobia
Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Family of man named as 'Jihadi John' described by neighbours as 'normal Muslim family'
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we know about man named as Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...
£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...