These are the proposals in the manifesto, listed by the ministry. You may comment on the proposals, preferably with a view to selecting something for action. If you would like this to be considered as a project for further discussion as to the exact action desired, please advise in the comment.

Pesticides Aims

1.Set target for a 50% reduction in both the weight of pesticides used and the number of pesticide applications per field by 2022. France and Denmark have recently set clear reduction targets of 50% and 40%, respectively. Many pesticides today are used in a preventative manner, rather than when indispensable to fight an existing pest problem. Therefore, by addressing challenges on a farm by farm basis and adopting innovative techniques such as new methods for mechanical weeding, it would be possible to decrease the overall deployment of chemicals in the countryside whilst maintaining similar levels of productivity. In fact, a study carried out in France has shown that a substantial decrease in pesticide use would have no negative impact on either productivity or profitability on 77% of 946 non-organic farms analysed. 11 Therefore, a 50% reduction isn’t an unrealistic target to achieve - and in fact both France and Denmark have recently set clear reduction targets of 50% and 40%, respectively.               

2. Introduce a pesticide tax. Denmark recently did so, the tax representing 34-55% of sale price of the pesticides. The idea of taxing pesticides with the purpose of reducing environmental and health risks associated with their use has been around since the mid 1980s, with Sweden leading the way and introducing the first pesticide charge in 1984. Since then, other Scandinavian countries have implemented a similar model. In Denmark, for example, taxation is calculated based on the quantified damage on the environmental and human health resulting from the actual use of the pesticide and studies have shown that the human health risk has decreased sharply since the introduction of such policies. 16

3. Use revenue from the pesticide tax to fund an independent advisory service for farmers, with on-farm field trials to test effectiveness of pesticide reduction measures / alternatives to pesticides. Many reviews have highlighted the primary challenge in pesticide use reduction in the widespread adoption of best practices. 17 In other words, how do we let every farmer know what the best practice is? This is where the importance of applied research, demonstration farms, advisory resources, on-field trials and the dissemination of knowledge comes in and is absolutely crucial. Of course, this costs money. What better way to fund these positive initiatives than by using the revenue from a pesticide tax?

4. Set a target for 20% of UK farmland to be organic (or in conversion) by 2022, supported by diverting existing ‘pillar one’ area-based farm subsidies. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU’s largest single item of expenditure, taking up nearly 40% of the total EU budget and delivering around £3 billion to British farmers every year. The so called “pillar one” area-based farm subsidies make up the bulk (roughly 3:1) of this sum, and are calculated on the basis of the area of land, independent of the type of production. Though there is some conditionality applied, this is basically a payment for owning land, which does not affect output, boost production or have any direct effect on the level of pollution. 18 If those subsidies were diverted towards conversion of at least 20% of farmland to organic, an important and much needed shift would take place: ownership of land would no longer automatically entitle one to receive generous subsidies, but responsible food production that is good for environmental and human health would.

5. Ban glyphosate, with a time-limited derogation for use in no-till farming systems until alternative weed control methods are developed. Glyphosate, also known by its commercial name Roundup, is the most used herbicide on the planet. Used in both agriculture and in urban areas to control weeds, it has been classified by multiple studies as likely to be carcinogenic and an endocrine disruptive agent. 19 , 20 This has placed it at the centre of a public debate on whether its liberal use should be reduced or eliminated. 21 , 22 As well as being potentially toxic for humans, its fate in the environment raises much concern due to its contaminating effect for both soil and groundwater, and its toxicity to aquatic life. 23 No-till farming is a method which preserves soil quality and resilience by decreasing soil disturbance and increasing water retention, which in turn boosts biodiversity in the soil. However, most no-till systems currently use glyphosate to control weeds, which is why it is suggested that a temporary exception is made on the ban of glyphosate for these farms, while alternative methods are developed.

6. Make all records of pesticide use transparent and open access, so that anyone can see what pesticides are used on each field. At present farmers are obliged to record these data but they are never made public. Many pesticides are airborne and can be spread beyond the boundaries of the farm, depending on weather conditions. Studies have shown that rural residents can be exposed to agricultural pesticides through the proximity of their homes to crop fields, 24 but at the moment they cannot find out what pesticides are being applied. Ready access to pesticide use data would greatly facilitate scientific research into associations between patterns of pesticide use and both environmental and human health.

7. Labelling of fresh produce: all fruit and veg to be labelled with the pesticides used in their cultivation. If it is not practical to put such labels on every item, the list should be posted on the retailer’s website. According to the most recent 2017 independent report on pesticide residue in UK foods, 25 47% of tested fruit and veg samples contained a residue, 3.3% of which was over the maximum recommended level. Given these results, consumers should be made aware of the types and quantities of pesticides that have been used on each food they purchase, both for transparency and to help them make the most informed choices.

8. Make cities/towns/villages pesticide free, as has happened in many cities abroad, such as Toronto. Outside of agricultural use, pesticides are also heavily used in towns and cities across the UK. Schools, playgrounds, public parks, streets, hospitals, road verges and private gardens - basically all the places where we spend most of our time. “There are 41 different kinds of pesticides that are used in towns and cities, and 11 of those are either proven, possible or probable human carcinogens, so we are spraying cancer-causing chemicals needlessly around the places we and our children frequent”, says Nick Mole, PAN UK policy officer. So why are we doing this? This has no bearing on food production or security, and there are many alternative methods to control weeds in urban areas. Many cities around the world are adopting a ban on all urban pesticides. In Europe, Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona have been leading the way and, as of 2017, the whole of France has banned the use of pesticides in urban areas. 26 Unsurprisingly, the outcomes are often welcomed by citizens. Ghent in Belgium has been free from pesticides since 2009 and according to its Mayor Daniel Termont “The streets are obviously greener as we are no longer using chemical weed killers: poppies, buttercups and daisies are peppering the edges of our pavements.” Similarly in Lyon, France, pesticides were completely banned from as early as 2008, reducing maintenance costs by €30k a year. 27

9. Ban neonicotinoids from use as flea treatments on pets or as ant baits (these uses are not covered by the new EU ban). Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides which attack the nervous system of insects by binding to their nicotinic receptors and paralysing them. They are implicated as contributing to the rapid ongoing declines in insect life in Europe, with a consequent decline in insect-eating birds and small mammals. In 2018, the European Union voted to ban the use of three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides on all crops grown outdoors. However, their use is still allowed for flea tre atments on pets and as ant baits, both of which pose serious threats to water invertebrates once the products wash off into the waterways. According to a recent report, 28 surprisingly high levels of imidacloprid were found in a number of rivers across the UK, including remote Scottish streams in the Cairngorms, the source of which is likely to be from treated dogs washing in streams.

10.Set up a nationwide scheme to measure levels of pesticides in soils and rivers At present, there is no routine monitoring of levels of pesticide contamination of the UK environment. Some pesticides, such as glyphosate and neonicotinoids, have proved to be far more persistent than their manufacturers initially claimed. For example, neonicotinoids had been in use for over 20 years before it emerged that these neurotoxins had been accumulating in soils, and are now widely present in rivers and in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers. If environmental samples were routinely tested for pesticides then this would have been detected much earlier and steps taken to prevent further contamination.

References:

16. Böcker, T., Finger, R. (2016) European Pesticide Tax Schemes in Comparison: An Analysis of Experiences and Developments. Sustainability8: 378
17. European Union DG Health and Food safety (2017) Overview report on sustainable use of pesticides 18. Helm., D. (2017) Agriculture after Brexit.
Oxford Review of Economic Policy33(1): 124–133
19. International Agency for Research on Cancer.(2015) IARC Monographs Volume 112: Evaluation of Five Organophosphate Insecticides and Herbicides. [Online] Available online: [https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf] (Accessed 03/08/2018)
20. Araujo, J.S., Delgado, I.F., Paumgartten, F.J.(2016) Glyphosate and adverse pregnancy outcomes, a systematic review of observational studies. BMC Public Health16: 472
21. Mesnage, R., Antoniou, M.N., (2017) Facts and Fallacies in the Debate on Glyphosate Toxicity.
Front. Public Health5:316
22. Torretta, V., Katsoyiannis, I.A., Viotti, P., Rada, E.C. (2018) Critical Review of the Effects of Glyphosate Exposure to the Environment and Humans through the Food Supply Chain.
Sustainability10: 950
23. Van Bruggen, A.H.C., He, M.M., Shin, K., Mai, V., Jeong, K.C., Finckh, M.R., Morris, J.G. (2018) Environmental and health effects of the herbicide glyphosate.
Science of the Total Environment616–617, 255–268
24. Ward, M.H., Lubin, J., Giglierano, J., Colt, J.S., Wolter, C., Bekiroglu, N., Camann, D., Hartge, P., Nuckols, J.R. (2006) Proximity to Crops and Residential Exposure to Agricultural Herbicides in Iowa.
Environ Health Perspect 114(6): 893–897
25. Pesticide residue in food (PRiF) annual report (2017). [Online] Available  at: 
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/726926/expert-committee-pesticide-residues-food-annual-report-2017.pdf(Accessed 03/08/2018) 

26. Pesticide Action Network UK. Link: http://www.pan-uk.org/(Accessed 03/08/2018)
27. Lyon site officiel. Sustainable management of the environment. [Online] Available at: https://www.lyon.fr/cadre-de-vie/gestion-environnementale/une-gestion-durable-de-lenvironnement (Accessed 03/08/2018)
28. Buglife (2017) Neonicotinoid insecticides in British waterways [Online]. Available online: https://www.buglife.org.uk/sites/default/files/QA%20Neonicotinoids%20in%20water%20in%20the%20UK-%20final%20(2)%20+NI_0.pdf(Accessed 03/08/2018)

 

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Farming and Food Miles Aims
Wildlife Law Aims
 

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Friday, 22 November 2019