Tag Archives: DEFRA

Campaign to ban crop spraying of pesticides near homes, schools and playgrounds.

1 May

Richard Bruce has drawn our attention to Georgina’s petition.

In 1983 Georgina Downs (left with father Ken) and her family moved to a house next to agricultural fields. Over the years, her health gradually worsened as the result of exposure to the pesticides used nearby. She launched a campaign against the use of pesticides in intensive farming.

After researching the effect of pesticides and their effects on human health, she decided to challenge government regulations.

In 2008 the High Court of Justice ruled that DEFRA did not comply with European Union regulations. It found that Downs had provided “solid evidence” that residents had suffered harm to their health and that the existing approach to pesticide regulation in the UK was not, as DEFRA had argued, “reasonable, logical and lawful”.

The ruling was, however, overturned by the Court of Appeal in July 2009. The appeal judge ruled that the High Court justice had substituted his own evaluation of the health effect of pesticides for the evidence provided by DEFRA.

In 2016 Ms Downs launched a petition calling on PM Theresa May to ban all crop spraying of pesticides near residents’ homes, schools and playgrounds. The petition was signed by thousands of other rural residents also reporting adverse health impacts of crop spraying in their localities and now has over 2500 signatures and has recently been cited in articles and submissions to the Commons and House of Lords.

 

Recently she wrote to MPs who had only a few days left before the dissolution of Parliament, pointing out that rural residents and communities have one of the highest levels of exposure to agricultural pesticides and the least level of any protection. There are fundamental failings in the way the UK (and Europe more widely) have approved pesticides. To date, the official method has been based on the model of a short term ‘bystander’, occasionally exposed for just a few minutes, and to just one pesticide at any time. But for residents, as opposed to mere bystanders, experience repeated acute and chronic exposure over the long term to innumerable mixtures/cocktails of pesticides used on crops.

Ms Downes said that considering how many millions of citizens will be living in this situation then this is a public health and safety failure on a scandalous scale, especially considering the absolute requirement in existing laws that pesticides can only be authorised for use if it has been established that there will be no immediate or delayed harmful effect on human health.

The fact that there has never been an actual risk assessment for the real life exposure of residents means that no pesticide should ever have been approved in the first place for spraying in the locality of residents’ homes, schools, children’s playgrounds, nurseries, hospitals, amongst other such areas. Whilst operators will be in filtered cabs and/or have personal protective equipment when using pesticides, rural residents have no protection at all. Instead rural citizens have been put in a massive guinea pig-style experiment and many residents have had to suffer the serious, devastating – and in some cases fatal – consequences.

She refers to evidence of the risks posed by these pesticides. The manufacturers product data sheets carrying warnings such as “Very toxic by inhalation,” “Do not breathe spray; fumes; vapour,” “Risk of serious damage to eyes,” “Harmful, possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation,” and even “May be fatal if inhaled.” Aerial spraying, more common in the USA (below), is legal in Britain if a detailed application has been passed by the Health & Safety Executive.

High quality, peer-reviewed scientific studies and reviews have concluded that long-term exposure to pesticides can disturb the function of different systems in the body, including nervous, endocrine, immune, reproductive, renal, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. See for example, the review published on 15th April 2013 in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology regarding the chronic health impacts of pesticides entitled “Pesticides and Human Chronic Diseases; Evidences, Mechanisms, and Perspectives” and which can be seen at:- http://www.sciencedirect.com/…/article/pii/S0041008X13000549

Evidence was submitted to a recent Lords committee enquiry in February (2017), see: http://data.parliament.uk/…/brexit-agric…/written/47151.html. Paragraphs 1.45 to 1.51 present  reports from thousands of rural residents affected by pesticides sprayed on crops in their locality and who have been calling on the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to ban all crop spraying of poisonous pesticides near residents homes, schools, and playgrounds.

A March 2017 United Nations Special Rapporteurs on toxics and on the right to food described poisoning by pesticides as a human rights issue. Its report on pesticides supported a number of key points including: that chronic exposure to agricultural pesticides has been associated with several diseases and conditions including cancer, developmental disorders, and sterility, and that those living near crop fields, especially pregnant women and children, are particularly vulnerable to exposure from these chemicals, and that moving away from pesticide-reliant industrial agriculture to non-chemical farming methods should now be a political priority in all countries.

Ms Downes calls for a complete paradigm moving away from the use of pesticides altogether to the adoption of non-chemical farming methods, as it goes without saying that no toxic chemicals that can harm the health of humans, (as well as other species such as bees, birds etc.) anywhere in the world, should be used to grow food.

Rural residents are calling on those who are standing again for re-election, especially those in rural constituencies, to recognise the importance of this issue and to stand up for those poisoned by pesticides in such constituency areas, and in your campaign pledges to commit to taking action if re-elected.

Georgina Downs FRSA, IFAJ, BGAJ: UK Pesticides Campaign (that represents rural residents and communities exposed to pesticides sprayed on crops).

www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk

georgina@pesticidescampaign.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.

 

 

 

 

Sheep dip sufferers support group update

19 Apr

Following the 2015 post on this website, comes news from Warrington farmer Tom Rigby, co-ordinator of the Sheep Dip Sufferers’ Group, who sent a press release reporting that HSE had released details of their 1992 Sheep Dipping Survey which may be seen on their website – the report here and appendix here.

Readers new to this subject may first wish to read the full history on the group’s website.

HSE identified 700 farmers in 16 different regions of GB (385 in England, 155 in Scotland and 160 in Wales) broadly typical of the whole and 696 surveys were completed. There were 160 occasions described where some form of ill-health occurred after dipping, only three of which had been reported to MAFF/VMD. If this was representative of UK’s 90,400 sheep flocks it suggests over 20,000 cases nationwide.

Northern Farmer 2editorial

HSE’S Epidemiology and Medical Statistics Unit suggested a better way of expressing these findings were as “a crude incident rate of 8.9 self-reported illness episodes per 1000 dippers per annum”. This suggests a total of over 33,000 for MAFF’s compulsory dipping years 1976-92. Mr Rigby comments that trying to calculate incident rate this way almost certainly gives an under-estimate due to what is known as the ‘healthy worker’ effect as it ignores fatalities and those too ill to continue working (similar to trying to estimate road traffic incidents over 10 years just by interviewing current drivers).

Cumulative exposure

sheep dip peter tyrerHis testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkQQl68ltYk

Tom Rigby says: “Whatever the precise figure it does seem by 1992 HSE were aware of the devastating effects dipping was having on the health of sheep farmers. We believe this is the reason MAFF ended compulsory dipping in June that year (something they have always denied) and we request disclosure of correspondence between HSE and MAFF in the weeks prior to that decision being taken”.

The initial results of this HSE study were published as a news release dated 20th July 1993 with the title “HSE SURVEY CONFIRMS POOR WORKING PRACTICES DURING SHEEP DIPPING”. It highlighted “dippers hands or feet were used to immerse sheep on 48 farms” (7% of the total) and the head of HSE’s Livestock National Interest Group, (the sponsors of the report) said “this survey has confirmed our view of where the problems lie”.

Northern Farmer 2 SDS questionsHowever now we have sight of the survey in full there seems to be no correlation between dipping practice and reports of ill-health. 662 farmers, including those using hands and feet, account for proportionately fewer cases than 17 contract dippers who were exclusively using dipping aids.

It said, “Although contract dippers made up only 2.4% of the total they accounted for 10.6% of incidents”. This suggests the greatest single factor seems to be cumulative exposure. Many farmers were not aware of danger of cumulative exposure through inhalation until alerted by this piece in the Farmers Weekly fifteen years later. It is now accepted by HSE but not by DEFRA.

As the contract dippers were also found to be wearing better protective clothing than farmers the main route of exposure might have been inhalation, but face masks were not issued. The shortcoming of protective clothing available at the time is discussed on this audio clip from Countryfile from 1992.

There was no attempt in the survey to try to correlate ill-health with different chemicals used when dipping, apart from the observation that some farmers noticed less problems using non-OP dips. One main conclusion of the report was “Farmers need to be encouraged to substitute a hazardous product (OPs) with a less hazardous product (non OP)”. Sadly however for the last 23 years the ill-health of farmers affected has been ignored; all non-OP have been taken off the market leaving OPs as the only products available for dipping.

We include snapshots from the Northern Farmer’s March edition, which mentioned the work of the group in its front page story, the main feature inside and an editorial (above, centre) calling for an inquiry, listing three questions (above left) to which the group wants answers.

 

Il Papa: counterweight to the Owen Paterson-fronted GM onslaught

17 Jun

monsanto logo (3)As Monsanto (renamed in Windscale damage limitation mode) plans a British HQ for its new company – if it can acquire Syngenta – former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson [below right] once again trots out tired myths about the virtues of genetic modification of crops.

owen paterson on return from chinaHe is said to be assisted by his brother-in-law, Viscount Matt Ridley, a genetic scientist who is a visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York which has received funding from Monsanto and Novartis. His long-term support for the technology, first highlighted in a ‘civilian’ September 2012 speech at the Rothamsted Research facility, inviting GMO innovators to take root in the UK, was followed by his DEFRA appointment.

Minister Paterson, in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, financed by GM companies Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience, frequently lobbied the EU on the desirability of GM crops. Last April he refused a Freedom of Information Act request to supply details about meetings between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the GM industry trade body. He had to leave DEFRA, having extolled Britain’s shale gas reserves, ‘an unexpected and potentially huge windfall’, and mishandled the summer floods and badger culls.

uk2020

He then set up a think tank UK2020. Millionaire-founded, it steers clear of direct funding from GM industries but vigorously promotes the technology at events such as last year’s South African agricultural biotechnology media conference, hosted by ISAAA which receives donations from both Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.

Murdoch’s Fox News: “the most anticipated and feared papal document in recent times”

Reports are coming in about the leaked papal encyclical on dangers to the environment but many failed to mention the references to genetically modified crops. It adds to the call for dialogue on this and other environmental issues voiced by the Vatican in 2013.

Farming Weekly Online does report the thoughts of Pope Francis on GMOs and pesticides, voiced in the draft of this major environmental document. He has called for a “scientific and social debate” on genetically modified foods that considers all the information available: “[I]t is necessary to ensure scientific and social debate that is responsible and large, able to consider all the information and to call things by their names. GMOs is an issue which is complex; it must be approached with a sympathetic look at all its aspects and this requires at least one effort to finance several lines of independent and interdisciplinary research.”

FW reports that he highlighted “significant problems” with the technology that should not be minimised, such as the “development of oligopolies in the production of seeds” and a “concentration of productive land in the hands of the few” that leads to the “disappearance of small producers”. Did it refer to GM herbicide resistant weeds and GM insecticide resistant insects?

The pontiff said the spread of GM crops “destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and future of regional economies”. On the use of pesticides in agriculture – and GM cultivation – he warned that many birds and insects useful to agriculture are dying out as a result of pesticides created by technology.

We end with comments from a Nebraskan:

 iowa-farm-road-2

I see the landscape in farming country in Iowa & Nebraska – not a tree or bush in sight. Not one weed. The pesticides & weed killers spayed on the crops have killed off everything except the GMO crops! There go the butterflies, the bees & all other beneficial insects that pollinate our crops. It’s a sickening thing to see & it spells total disaster. I applaud the Pope for taking a world view of our problems. No other Pope has ever bothered with anything other than spiritual problems.

And from Brian John – on our mailing list:

Good for Pope Francis! The religious leaders — of all faiths — have been very slow to enter this debate, partly because they have been put under intense diplomatic pressure by the GMO/agrichemical industries and by the US and other governments. But the Christian understanding of the word “stewardship” is a very important part of the faith, and it’s great that Pope Francis is now prepared to explain it in terms of a global responsibility to look after the poor, to look after the environment and to maintain the purity of food and water. The GMO industry, and its acolytes, bang on all the time, quite cynically, about GMOs being needed to “feed the world” in a future full of uncertainties. It’s nonsense. of course, and the Pope’s intervention at this stage is of vast significance.

You can find the full draft encyclical here (in Italian): speciali.espresso.repubblica.it/pdf/laudato_si.pdf and comments on a translation.

A Lancashire farmer directs attention to DEFRA’s Lord de Mauley: responsible for GM crops

16 Jun

lord de mauley

The EU decision to allow Member States to decide whether to cultivate GM crops will – if agreed by the European Parliament – be welcomed by low-profile minister Lord Rupert de Mauley.

This DEFRA parliamentary under secretary of state, is responsible for the department’s business in the House of Lords. He passes on to the Lords a digest of the statements made by his Right Hon Friend the Secretary of State (Owen Paterson).

On appointment Lord de Mauley said that farmers in the UK should be able to use genetically-modified crops, provided they can be shown to be safe for health and the environment.

He deplored EU legislation, which he said was stifling research into GM crops, so widely used in the USA and many developing countries:

“The unduly slow operation of the EU approval process, that is deterring investment and innovation in this technology. We want the EU regime to operate more effectively, grounded on an objective appraisal of the potential effects of GM crops on human health and the environment. Of course, we must be careful and base safety decisions on science and scientific evidence”.

Lord de Mauley is currently working closely with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on a life sciences agri-tech strategy, debated at the Royal Society on 21st May, 2014: Delivering the Agri-tech Strategy – improving the quality and productivity of the UK food production and processing sectors.

Though only indirect references were made – using the term ‘good science’ – Lord de Mauley has expressed hopes that ‘cutting-edge technology’ will be exported and also taken up by the domestic agricultural sector urging the whole of the farming industry to “up its game”:

“Wheat scientists and breeders are developing new lines that focused on sustainability traits, such as nutrient use efficiency, drought tolerance and pest and disease resistance”.

Business Green reports that, in June last year, de Mauley, now described as being responsible for GM crops, met Christopher Pollock, the outgoing chair of the advisory committee on releases to the environment (ACRE), and official adviser to the government on authorisation for growing GM crops, to discuss changing the European GM regulations.

UK government permits GM trial: Chinese Military Command bans GM food

14 May

bbsrc header biosciences

The BBSRC website announces that DEFRA has granted Rothamsted Research permission to conduct a field trial of Camelina plants that have been genetically modified to produce omega-3 oils that may provide health, environmental and societal benefits. It will form part of the BBSRC publicly funded programme of work, ‘Seeds for nutrition and health’ that is being carried out at Rothamsted.

Owen Paterson and David Cameron please note: China’s Military Command has just banned GMO staple food and oil from its army’s diet

This was done in order to assure the health of military members and safety of their drinks and food, because of safety concerns about GMO grain and oil products in China at present.

chinese army food

Google Translate’s version of a Chinese blog says that the Guangzhou Military Command Joint Logistics Department and the Provincial Military Grain & Food Oil Supply Center, announced on May 6th that from this date all military supply stations will be allowed to purchase only non-GMO grain and food oil products from the designated processing enterprises.

They are considering what to decide about the diet of education bureaus and departments, all canteens of primary and middle schools and universities. The standard established by the State Food & Drug Administration Bureau for infant formula powder allowing to add chemically extracted GM soybean oil and GM soybean protein powder is also being questioned.

A campaigning group adds: “This move by the Chinese army is being seen as yet another step towards the Chinese government’s expected ban on the import of all GMO grains and oilseeds within the next 2 years, due to growing public concern over GMOs. The expected ban would be a huge blow to the biotech industry worldwide”.

Owen Paterson answered by WDM – and many others . . .

14 Oct

Owen Paterson has decried those opposing GM crops to promote agribusiness. The World Development Movement responds to his assertions: 

owen paterson on return from chinagov uk logoDEFRA, BIS and DFID have a joint ‘agricultural technology’ strategy to promote UK agribusiness interests – including in new markets overseas – and very little about a just and sustainable food system.

Already 10 companies control three-quarters of the global seed market. WDM continues:

“If we were concerned about a food system which prioritised people’s need, we would need a radically different distribution of power and resources. As we all know, there’s more than enough food to feed the world’s population – the problem is access.

“Malnutrition in the global south is almost exclusively a result of people’s inability to access enough food, or a sufficiently varied diet. The way to solve it is to improve incomes (ed: and access to fertile land) – not to hand power to the multinationals that already control our food system, further squeezing producers and forcing them into an industrial monoculture production that posits Golden Rice as a solution rather than a problem”.

Rianne, who sent this link, commented: “On which planet is (Owen Paterson) living? Saving which lives?

“Rather, saving the income of shareholders . . . ”

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