Letters: Farm pesticides

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Ministers ignore scientific advice on farm pesticides

Sir: The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) was asked by the Government to investigate the risk to health from pesticides, particularly to those living near farmland. In their report, they severely criticised the current pesticide regulatory system and the scientific advice on which Government policy is based.

They called for more precaution in the face of the uncertainty over the possible risks to health. They recommended buffer (no-spray) zones round homes and schools. They said that information should be provided to rural residents adjoining pesticide-sprayed land so that they can at least try to protect themselves. They said that those giving the Government policy advice on pesticides should not be the same people as those responsible for approving pesticides, as they are now.

As you reported (21 July), all of these recommendations have just been rejected, ignored or deferred by the Government, or have, unacceptably, been passed back to the industry to deal with. Until the expert, independent, scientific advice of the Royal Commission is acted on by the Government, we believe no one, least of all those affected by pesticide sprays, should have any confidence in the official regulation of, and safety assessment of, pesticide use in the UK.

Pesticides are not necessary to produce good-quality food, and to protect public health and the environment we need to end our pesticide dependency and move to truly sustainable non-chemical and organic farming methods.

PETER MELCHETT SOIL ASSOCIATION

DR CLARE BUTLER-ELLIS PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK UK

GEORGINA DOWNS UK PESTICIDES CAMPAIGN

VICKI HIRD FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

CHRIS KAUFMAN TRANSPORT & GENERAL WORKERS' UNION

FAY MANSELL NATIONAL FEDERATION OF WOMEN'S INSTITUTES

DR DOUGLAS PARR GREENPEACE UK

ELIZABETH SALTER GREEN WWF-UK

CHRISTOPHER STOPES ECOS CONSULTANCY

Jews and Arabs can start talking peace

Sir: Lucy Mandelstam's letter (9 August) puts everyone to shame. My heart went out to her when she said "I wish I had an answer" to her desperate desire to live in peace in Israel.

Ms Mandelstam writes to you from Netanya in Israel. When she was being subjected to horrendous treatment by the Nazis in Austria, my father was happily tilling his land in Netanya in Palestine. I was brought up on endless stories of these halcyon days when the land was so wonderfully fertile and the living was good.

When people in Vienna were shouting "Jews to Palestine", my family did not dream that soon they would be dispossessed by the victims of vicious Nazi policies. I have cuttings from Palestinian newspapers of the time in which my father writes eloquently of the Islamic architecture of Andalusia and discusses agricultural ideas to enhance production in Palestine. I have another in which he suggests what the independent Palestine national flag should be after the British Mandate. I can imagine him living on his land in Netanya and working it just as an Israeli is probably doing today. I have a few land deeds in Arabic, English and Hebrew which tell me that the land was my father's and it is consequently now mine.

Ms Mandelstam lives on this land now while I live in a diaspora not dissimilar to the Jewish one. With increasing Islamophobia around the world, I am beginning to feel like the new Jew - wandering and hoping.

I still believe that there is an answer. No one is crass enough to deny Israelis their right to exist in peace and security. The answer is for both Israelis and Palestinians keep talking until they have agreed a settlement. A settlement is possible which would satisfy the aspirations of Israelis like Lucy Mandelstam to live in peace, the aspirations of Palestinians to build their state into a viable entity, and the justice both dispossessed Jews and Palestinians should have through some form of compensation for their losses both in Palestine for the Palestinians and in Arab countries for Arab Jews. Most of all a settlement is possible through genuine reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis where each side embraces the aspirations of the other. Maybe then Lucy Mandelstam and I could meet in Netanya for lunch and a neighbourly chat whilst we watch our children and their children playing together in peace.

I appeal to all those involved in the current conflict to put down their arms and start negotiating from a conciliatory point of view rather than a warlike one.

DR F H MIKDADI

DORCHESTER, DORSET

Sir: As a Jew (albeit a non-practising one) I am increasingly fed up with hearing about "2,000 years of persecution" culminating in the Holocaust (letters, passim), as if we are the only people on earth who have ever suffered, or that that somehow exempts us from conventional morality.

Other peoples have endured persecution for just as long and were killed in even greater numbers. Seventy million Chinese died under Mao's purges, 20 million Russians met a similar fate under Stalin; in America the legal segregation of blacks only recently ended, while in the Czech republic and elsewhere gypsies continue to be persecuted as they have been for centuries. As members of the world community, Jews (and Israel) must have no greater nor lesser standing than anyone else, and must be held to the same standards of behaviour.

Horrific as the Holocaust was, it occurred over two generations ago, and while it must never be forgotten, it is now time to relegate it to the past, where it belongs, so that it can no longer be used as justification for the dubious treatment of others. In so many cases the continuance of hatreds from the past is responsible for the conflicts of the present; witness the Shiite/Sunni split, which can be traced back 14 centuries.

And lest I be accused of being a "self-hating Jew", I am proud of my Jewish heritage; it is Israel's callous treatment of the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples that shames me.

BRUCE PALEY

LONDON NW3

Sir: Amir Hallel (Opinion, 9 August) makes the bizarre comparison between the arms found in many Israeli border towns and villages and the arms found all over southern Lebanon.

The arms in the Israeli towns are always under the control of the Israeli army. Those arms (mostly rifles) are for self defense only and nobody can use them to launch cross-border attacks. Did he ever see members of his kibbutz cross the border and abduct Lebanese soldiers?

On the other hand, the heavy weapons owned by Hizbollah, including 13,000 rockets, some of them very sophisticated, are used only by a fanatic guerrilla group, not under the control of the Lebanese army. Those weapons are hidden in many private homes and mosques and are used only for attacks on Israel.

It is unfortunate that Hallel is unable or unwilling to see the difference. It is important for him to remember that if the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence, but if the Israelis put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.

DR JACOB AMIR

JERUSALEM

Sir: Why don't the sanctimonious activists who are attempting to disrupt Prestwick and other RAF airports where, allegedly, weapons shipments from the US to Israel have landed, have anything to say about the indisputable six-year buildup of rockets and other weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hizbollah? This buildup has led directly and unavoidably to the present crisis.

JANE ALLEN

LONDON N12

Sir: Mary Dejevsky (Opinion, 9 August) confuses ends and means. Of course Israel is entitled to defend its security but it will never find security down the path it is now taking.

RICHARD DAVY

OXFORD

Sir: Mary Dejevsky's argument about Israel's right to defend its borders would have been more persuasive if she had defined precisely which borders she believes it has a legitimate right to defend.

COLIN ALVES

HAYWARDS HEATH, WEST SUSSEX

Builders should put their house in order

Sir: It is regrettable that Taylor Woodrow should simply blame the planning system for a lack of new homes (report, 4 August). Developers and planners do need to work together to deliver the housing this country needs, but that housing needs to be of a quality that will make it more acceptable to local communities. A recent limited survey of planners by the Royal Town Planning Institute found an astonishing nine out of ten planning applications by major housebuilders needed further information before a decision could be made.

Housebuilders need to shoulder some of the burden for delays as well as the overworked planning departments. Perhaps if volume housebuilders paid attention to the details of their submissions the problem could be greatly reduced for both sides. Taylor Woodrow has increased its land bank by 10 per cent in the last six months. It can show the way in making robust planning applications for high-quality and sustainable housing.

KELVIN MACDONALD

DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND PRACTICE ROYAL TOWN PLANNING INSTITUTE LONDON EC3

What about equal rights for England?

Sir: Johann Hari ("Why does the right hate Britain so much?", 3 August) complains about the Tory proposal to "relegate 6 million Brits to second-class citizenship" but what about the 50 million of us that currently have second-class citizenship, when it comes to such things as student fees and the availability of certain anti-cancer drugs on the NHS? Johann Hari fails to realise that the liberal Britain many of us desire cannot truly exist until all of its citizens are given fair and equal treatment - including those of us from that bit of Britain south of Scotland and east of Wales.

He may be right that barring Scottish MPs from voting on England-only legislation could be a threat to the Union, but does he not see that a far bigger threat is the status quo, in which New Labour has given devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland whilst denying the same for England? The centre-left parties might gain more support if they also tried tapping into this "untapped well of English nationalism" by offering us the same referendum that was given to Scotland and Wales regarding home rule.

SIMON COWLEY

DARTFORD, KENT

Sir: Mr Hari is asking the wrong question. The Acts of Devolution have encouraged Scottish and Welsh nationalists to seek ever more independence and English nationalists, branded as dark forces by the left, merely to ask for equal treatment. England is now the only country in Europe without national self-government. So the real question is "Why does the left hate England so much?"

PRISCILLA CULLEN

HITCHIN, HERTFORDSHIRE

Save the planet from global overcrowding

Sir: Naturally one can only applaud attempts to mitigate global warming through novel technology ("How sea water in the sky could halt global warming", 8 August). However there is one piece of proven technology which has been around for decades, but which largely for religious reasons is still not being allowed to make its full contribution to solving this and related problems. It is called the contraceptive pill.

Studies suggest that the present 6,600 million human population exceeds the long-term carrying capacity of the planet by a factor of between two and three. Moreover that population is rising by 76 million a year, that rate of growth is accelerating and on realistic projections the total will pass 9,000 million by 2050.

We are told that God blessed Adam and Eve, saying "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth". That is what we have done, and much more, and we should take appropriate action.

DR D R COOPER

MAIDENHEAD, BERKSHIRE

Smiling face

Sir: Timothy Morton (letter, 8 August) has misunderstood. The smiling face we Apple Mac users see is our own, reflected in the screen, smug in the knowledge that the likelihood of our computers crashing or being effected by a virus is almost nil. I know; I have to use both types of machine.

RON BIRD

PINNER, MIDDLESEX

Virtue rewarded

Sir: It seems increasingly futile to call for environmentally beneficial taxes when we know that no politician will risk the wrath of the motoring lobby. Why not switch the argument round and start to use the tax system to support those who behave responsibly rather than penalise those who don't? As just one example, give a council tax credit to households not running a car - easy to implement and it sends a positive message to a group completely invisible in the daily media discourse.

PAT ODDY

YARM, YORKSHIRE

Shooting benefits birds

Sir: Opponents of grouse shooting (Kevin Mutimer, letters, 7 August) should ask themselves why waders like curlew and golden plover are much more abundant on upland managed for grouse shooting than elsewhere. It is a scandal that these species are so little found in the South-west or in Wales, whilst there are flourishing populations in the Pennines on land managed for shooting. It may appear at first glance a paradox but grouse shooting is good for a range of wildlife and undoubtedly delivers a substantial net conservation benefit.

DR STEPHEN TAPPER

GAME CONSERVANCY TRUST FORDINGBRIDGE, HAMPSHIRE

Dustbin of history

Sir: Patricia Howard has a point about using plastic bags twice by reusing them as pedal-bin liners (Letters, 7 August). She is, however, years out of date as she should not need a liner nowadays with recycling and composting. There are even solutions for those without gardens. Green ideas have moved on and are not too challenging.

CHRISTINE AIREY

POYNINGS, SUSSEX

Unintelligent design

Sir: Regarding clever sheep learning to cross cattle grids (letter, 8 August): what happens when they reach the other side? They get run over, thus preventing them from breeding and creating a more intelligent race of super sheep, leaving the dumb ones who never learn to cross to the dangerous outside world to breed freely, ensuring that sheep remain as stupid as ever. Voilà: natural selection in action!

DR DAVID WHITTAKER

LINGFIELD, SURREY

Over the top

Sir: "Man held over fires in Spain" - headline, 8 August. The return of the auto da fe?

A FOSTER

CHISLEHURST, KENT

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