Pesticide checks on water 'inadequate': Independent 'crop doctors' should dispense chemicals, report says

THE MONITORING of pesticides in water is 'grossly inadequate' and radical measures are needed to curb their use so that householders do not face higher bills or higher levels of pollutants in drinking water, a new study claims.

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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine