• Pesticide Safety: UK Government Agrees To Tighten Up Rules

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    In a rather low key announcement, the Government finally agreed to changes to its policy for assessing the risks to people from agricultural pesticides. This followed a long drawn out battle between myself and the Government often dubbed “Georgina v Goliath”.

    In 2001, I identified astonishing failings in the Government’s existing policy and approvals system for protecting people, like me, who live near crop sprayed fields, from the health risks of pesticide use. As a result I started to present a case to the Government regarding its policy failings, and campaigning for urgent action to protect the health of people in the countryside.

    To date, the official method in the UK of assessing the risks to people from crop spraying and under which pesticides are approved, is based on the model of a “bystander” which assumes that there will only be occasional short-term exposure of just a few minutes. It is also based on the assumption that exposure will only be to one individual pesticide at any time.

    After 12 months of deliberation the UK government has announced that it will tighten up rules on pesticide safety assessments.

    As part of its new protocol, announced this week, the risk to residents from crop spraying will be included in safety assessments and a two-metre distance between the sprayer and a resident or bystander should be assumed in risk assessments; currently regulations stipulate an eight-metre distance (an assumption that underestimates people’s exposure to the drift from pesticides spraying).

    Long-time pesticides campaigner Georgina Downs* has hailed the announcement as a “significant victory” for her lengthy campaign to get the Government to accept the flaws in its approach to assessing the risk of crop sprays in the UK.

    New recommendations

    Advising the government was working group called the Bystander Risk Assessment Working Group (BRAWG), which presented a report on its findings to Ministers in December 2012.

    The Government said that it accepted all the report’s …

    Do you also live close to a field that gets regularly sprayed? If so, what sort of dialogue do you have with the farmer? Or, maybe, you're a farmer with long experience of keeping your neighbours informed?

    This column is an experiment in crowd-sourcing a reader's question, so please let us know your views, tips and experiences below (as opposed to emailing them) and I will join in with some of my own thoughts and reactions as the debate progresses. I will also be inviting various interested parties to join the debate too.

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