IoS letters, emails & messages (28 December 2008)

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Nick Mole of the Pesticides Action Network says that the new European pesticide proposals are "... a landmark, the biggest ever crackdown on poisonous chemicals" ("Massive crackdown on the use of scores of toxic pesticides", 21 December). Yet all pesticides are hazardous, and not all pesticides are going to be ruled out, only 22 substances out of 507.

Phasing out a handful is not going to solve either the acute or chronic adverse health effects of pesticides, as a) all chemical pesticides are designed to be toxic; b) agricultural pesticides are commonly used in mixtures, often four or five in any one application; and c) the Ontario College of Family Physicians, in its thorough and detailed 2004 pesticides literature review, concluded that "Our review does not support the idea that some pesticides are safer than others; it simply points to different health effects for different classes of pesticides."

Getting rid of 22 chemicals, while a positive step, will not solve the fundamental health and environmental problems associated with pesticide exposure.

Georgina Downs

UK Pesticides Campaign

Chichester, West Sussex

How can a heavily compromised deal, scratching the surface after more than 50 years of evidence of harm to human health from pesticides, have the Pesticides Action Network (PAN) waxing so lyrical? I am a former supporter of PAN, but believe industry and government interests are now being served at the expense of public health and protection.

Barbara Robinson

Ipswich, Suffolk

The agriculture industry takes stewardship of the land very seriously, and farmers and growers always have and will continue to use pesticides responsibly. Our customers and rural neighbours must be reassured that we operate to the highest standards.

Paul Temple

Vice-President, National Farmers' Union Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

Jane Haining is not the only brave Scottish woman to die in a concentration camp during the Second World War ("Scotland's Schindler", 21 December). Nurse Mary Helen Young of Aberdeen was arrested in Paris and tortured by brutal Gestapo thugs, who could not break her spirit. She died, not before a firing squad, but in the satanic gas chamber in Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1944. Like Edith Cavell in the First World War, she was accused of helping British prisoners to escape.

Unlike Nurse Cavell, Helen Young has not received any recognition or posthumous bravery award from the government. She is not even mentioned in any war books or publications, and her courage leading to her death has been ignored. Writing after the war, a French inmate who survived Ravensbruck wrote: "I know she would have died as she lived, a brave Scotswoman. Right up to the very end nothing could break her. She could smile, even in this hell that the Germans had made for us. She was a very brave woman, the bravest of the brave."

Donald J MacLeod

Aberdeen

It is interesting that parallels are being drawn between Jane Haining and Oskar Schindler. The final part of this story shares a similarity with that of Janusz Korczak, the Polish Jewish orphanage director who, despite offers from non-Jewish supporters to help him escape from the Warsaw ghetto, chose to accompany his orphans to their death in Treblinka death camp. Eyewitnesses movingly recorded Korczak leading his children in an orderly procession to the meeting point in the ghetto from where the transports left. Of the 17,000 memorial stones in Treblinka which each mark a Jewish community that was liquidated, resulting in the deaths of 870,00 people, only one stone bears a name... Janusz Korczak and the children.

Sharon Artley

Whitby, North Yorkshire

If young men seek their structure and learn their values in an all-male gang, more often than not it is because the natural father has left long ago, leaving the mother to wrestle, literally and metaphorically, with highly charged adolescent boys ("Victim of a class-war crime", 14 December). As a society we readily turn on mothers who fail, while invisible birth fathers leave the rest of society at risk by slithering out of their responsibilities altogether.

Phoebe

via the message board

In his article "Trekking in the Australian Alps is no skip through a meadow" (21 December), Mark Rowe says: "At 5,000ft in Britain you will be lucky to get more than a few hardy lichens." Very lucky indeed, I say, as at that altitude they will be floating several hundred feet above our highest mountain.

John Halton

Rhos-on-Sea, Conwy

Dom Joly's "huge kestrels" floating above the M40 in Oxfordshire were red kites ("Ah, the dreaming towers of Didcot power station", 21 December). The kestrel is tiny, hovering in a uniquely static way looking for live prey. The red kite, successfully introduced to this area many years ago, lollops about searching for carrion or disabled mice. I recently played cricket in this area and the sky was full of kites, watching like vultures, in case one of us elderly players keeled over.

John Collis

Taunton, Somerset

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