Detailed record of discussion
Chairman: Professor J G Ayres
Members: Ms A Baker, Dr J Cocker, Dr C Harris, Ms R Howell, Dr A Leake, Prof P Matthiessen, Dr M McPherson, Prof C Ockleford, Dr D Osborn, Dr W Parker, Prof J Parry, Dr A Povey, Dr H Rees, Dr S Waring.
Assessors: Ms G Asbury (FSA), Mr D Bench (CRD), Dr C Griffiths (SASA)
Advisors: Mr B Maycock (FSA), Dr R Turner (HSE), Dr K Wilson (CRD)
Secretariat: Ms J Wilder (CRD) Secretary, Mr P Fisher (CRD) Minutes Secretary, Miss A MacGregor (CRD) Secretariat, Miss S Lickiss (CRD) Secretariat
Other attendees: Ms C Glennie (CRD), Mrs S Mason (CRD), Mr R Mason (CRD), Dr M Percival (CRD)
1.1 Apologies were received from: Prof C Brown, Prof G Hawksworth, Dr D Ray, Mr J Battershill (HPA), Dr A Burn (Natural England), Dr M Camlin (AFBINI/DARDNI), Mr R Davis (CRD), Dr L Hetherington (HPA).Mrs C Moore (Environment Agency), Mr M Williams (Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).
2.1 The Chairman reminded Members of the confidentiality of the papers and their discussions. If Members believed that they had a commercial or financial interest in any of the items being discussed, they should declare their interest as soon as the meeting moved on to that agenda item. They would then not take part in the discussion, nor would they be involved in any decision taking, unless invited to do so by the Chairman.
3. Agenda item 1:
3.1 a) 338th Meeting: Minutes [ACP 1 (339/2009)]
3.1.1 Agreed as drafted
3.2 b) 338th Meeting: Detailed record of discussion [ACP 2(339/2009)]
3.2.1 Agreed as drafted.
4. Agenda item 2: Secretary’s report [ACP 3 (339/2009)]
4.1 Members heard that Ministers had been reflecting on the advice received on aminopyralid over the summer and their decision was still awaited. Members noted the letter that had been sent to those people who had written to the ACP about aminopyralid. They were concerned that the ACP should be as open as possible about their advice. The secretary explained that in view of the likely level of interest in this topic, they were working to produce a document for publication on the website drawing together the information that had been considered by the Committee in reaching their conclusion.
5. Agenda item 3: Matters arising
5.1 Diquat [ACP 22 (339/2009)]
5.1.1 During consideration of the application for emergency approval at meeting 338, Members had indicated that they would look at the fish data obtained by the applicant in order to provide more detailed advice as to what additional data would be required in a future application. The applicant had submitted these data together with information about historic treatment programmes.
5.1.2 Members commented that the fish data provided were encouraging in that long term use of diquat had not wiped out the fish populations. However according to the data provided, spraying nearly always took place after the fish survey, so it was not possible to determine whether there was any immediate impact from spraying over the first couple of weeks. In addition the sprayed areas and surveyed areas had only limited overlap, and there were no control data. It was possible that if the area had not been sprayed at all the fish populations might have been more abundant. The populations recorded did look quite low, but it was unclear whether they were normal for the area. Overall members concluded it was not possible to use these data in support of an application for approval.
5.1.3 Members suggested that the applicant could set up a ‘worst case’ study using enclosures in one of the larger drains. There was a similar study reported in the literature using a different herbicide, and members agreed to provide more detailed advice to the applicant. They also recommended that the applicant would need specialist support in generating the necessary data.
5.1.4 Members recalled that they had also suggested to the applicant that additional risk management would be required to reduce the operator exposure, and here again they suggested that the applicant might benefit from seeking specialist advice.
5.1.5 Members noted that the emergency application did not seem to strictly meet the criteria for emergency approvals and suggested that Ministers be involved in any future decision. They were also unclear why control of blanket weed only seemed to be so problematic for the Witham Fourth drainage board and not others in the same area.
5.1.6 Members noted that it did not seem that the current experimental approval had been used appropriately to enable the necessary experiments to generate the data required to support the application for approval.
5.1.7 The Chairman agreed to respond to the applicant setting out the Committee’s further advice and concerns and emphasising that any future application would not be accepted without the required data.
5.2 Other matters arising [ACP 5 (339/2009)]
5.2.1 Members noted that diflubenzuron had been referred to the Committee on Mutagenicity for advice and emphasised the importance of the committee receiving a full data set to enable them to provide clear advice.
5.2.2 Referring to the ‘post meeting note’ to the detailed record of meeting 338, Members sought clarification of the procedures that would result in a ‘cross compliance’ inspection if a farmer was found to be breaching the code of practice on spraying.
6. Agenda item 4: Bixafen [ACP 7 (339/2008)]
6.1 Dr Harris and Dr McPherson declared non-personal non-specific interests in this item.
6.2 The Committee considered the further data requested after the 336th and 337th Meetings.
6.3 Members noted the written comments received on this item and confirmed that predicted accumulated soil residues were sufficiently conservative to use in risk assessment. Although uneasy about the persistence of bixafen in environmental media, they noted that persistence of itself is not identified within legislation as a reason to restrict authorisation. Members confirmed the on-going field accumulation study should continue until plateau levels have been determined, and should be submitted as soon as possible after completion.
6.4 Members agreed that the new bird reproduction study was appropriate and that risk assessments were all acceptable.
6.5 The new sediment dweller study dosed the sediment directly. Members agreed the study was well conducted and the risk assessments confirmed that maximum residues would not affect chironomid emergence.
6.6 Members expressed concern that due to the persistence of bixafen it would be present for a long period in soils or sediments and it was still possible that some other organisms might be affected as a result. It was simply not possible to test everything. Members suggested that some post approval monitoring might be helpful although as the TERs were clear there was no justification to make this a regulatory requirement. Members gave some thought as to what might be useful to include in such monitoring as it was not realistic to try to monitor everything. They noted that there were hints in the bird reproductive study that calcium and/or phosphate metabolism might be affected as there was some evidence of egg shell thinning at the top dose tested (well above any exposures that might be anticipated following use as a pesticide). Members speculated that this suggested that organisms with shells at various life stages might be affected. The risk to birds was clearly acceptable, but it was possible that some other life forms e.g. aquatic molluscs, might be more susceptible. Given the uncertainty it was suggested that the company be asked to consider post-approval environmental monitoring of sediment levels and possible effects in fauna.
Action: CRD to consider with the company
6.7 Overall Members agreed that Ministers should be advised to grant approval, but they should be made aware of the suggested post approval monitoring,.
7. Agenda item 5: CRD implementation programme for the EU pesticides package [ACP 9 (339/2009)]
7.1 Members received an overview of the programme of work being taken forward by CRD to implement the new plant protection product regulation and the sustainable use directive. This programme was aimed at ensuring a consistent and prioritised approach working together where appropriate with other bodies and Member States. Stakeholder engagement is included in this process, in particular with a planned formal public consultation focusing mainly on aspects of the sustainable use directive. It was currently anticipated this would be taken forward in late autumn/winter 2009/2010. In addition, it was likely that there would be continuing engagement with the ACP as the programme developed.
7.2 Members asked what differences were envisaged as a result of the ‘best practice’ project to implement that aspect of the directive. CRD explained that one of the drivers behind this directive was to bring all member states’ practice up to the same high levels. In many respects UK practice already met these requirements, so although there would probably be some adjustments, at present it was not anticipated there would be many significant changes required in the UK. One area of interest to the ACP was integrated pest (or crop) management, and here CRD was encouraging the Commission not to be too prescriptive so that best local practice could be encouraged.
7.3 The Committee was also interested in the project that would be considering hazard triggers. Although these triggers are to form a key part of the regulation, there was some scope for interpretation, for example whether field or laboratory data took precedence in determining classification of some environmental aspects and CRD were to participate in work being led by the Commission and some other Member States.
7.4 Overall the Committee welcomed the communication strategy, noted that the programme was largely about process development and asked to see an outline of the individual projects forming the programme.
8. Agenda item 6: Scenario based approach to regulation [ACP 16 (339/2009)]
8.1 Members had requested a short paper to follow up ideas relating to a scenario based approach to regulation. At present the introduction of comparative assessment under the new regulation offered the only opportunity within the current regulatory system to adopt a scenario based approach. Under the regulation, comparative assessment is required for all active substances identified as candidates for substitution, the aim being that where possible they should be replaced by something ‘safer’. As such, the use of comparative assessment would not necessarily identify the product that was the ‘best fit’.
8.2 Members noted that one of the projects in the implementation programme was addressing this aspect of the new regulation. Whilst the project was focused on developing a system to deliver comparative assessment in the UK in line with the regulation requirements, it was likely that the project could also identify other aspects for future development of a scenario based approach.
8.3 The next opportunity for significant change in the approach to pesticide regulation was likely to be the next review of legislation. The UK comparative assessment process might be a suitable opportunity to start thinking about a wider future approach.
8.4 Members sought clarification of the likely timing of the introduction of comparative assessment. CRD estimated that the earliest likely assessments will be in about 4-5 years time following the identification of candidates for substitution. Members commented that this fitted exactly with the ‘perfect storm’ identified in environmental change discussions.
8.5 Members noted that a scenario based approach to regulation in future could be important in considering any releases to the environment, and agreed that members would keep in touch with the comparative assessment project in considering areas for future developments in regulatory science.
9. Agenda item 7: The ACP Open Meeting
9.1 Members agreed that the format of this year’s Open meeting on 9th November would follow the successful format of the previous two meetings with keynote speeches in the morning session and break-out groups in the afternoon.
9.2 The topic for the Open Meeting will be Food Security, and the key speaker will be the Government Chief Scientist. The Committee heard that three other speakers had been invited.
9.3 It was agreed that the workshop topics would be Integrated Pest Management and its contribution to sustainable agriculture; The role of pesticides in delivering food security; Exporting Risk? The impact of our regulatory decisions on developing nations and Alternative Food Sources and the role of pesticides. Members of the ACP would provide a lead in each of these groups, and a summary of discussions would be presented to the Chief Scientist.
10. Agenda Item 8: Japanese Knotweed Consultation [ACP 6 (339/2009)]
10.1 Members discussed this consultation on the introduction of a non-native psyllid in an attempt to suppress Japanese knotweed. Responsibility for providing formal advice on this type of pest control lay outside the legal terms of reference of the ACP as this release involved higher organisms.
10.2 Members noted a balanced assessment of the evidence available had been made in the paper. However, there were a number of aspects of the assessment that were uncertain and the history of biological control of weeds by insects had not been entirely successful. There were also well known examples of rather unpredictable things happening as a result of attempts to introduce biological controls. For example, Cactoblastus used successfully in Australia to control prickly pear also resulted in a change in growth habit of prickly pear to a more horizontal structure.
10.3 There were a number of important aspects that did not seem to have been addressed in the risk assessment presented. In particular there was no assessment of how the released psyllids might be controlled should this prove necessary. Other aspects that needed further consideration were whether the psyllids could themselves be vectors of, as yet unknown, but damaging plant pathogens, concerns about the evolutionary pressure to develop alternate hosts should the programme result in a successful suppression of Japanese knotweed and thus consequential loss of food source for the psyllids, aspects of timing of releases in comparison with possible predator life cycles, and how the psyllids would adapt to specific UK conditions. Many of these aspects could be explored further in some form of wider field trial, and members considered that given the limited effect on the target weed it would be important to clarify these issues before a release could be justified.
10.4 Overall members were concerned that there was uncertainty about both the effectiveness of the release and a number of possible risks posed by releasing this non-native species. . They asked the secretary to prepare a response for the Committee based on this discussion
11. Agenda Item 9: FSA Consultation – Review of Regulatory Framework [ACP 8 (339/2009)]
11.1 The Chairman thanked the Assessor from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for her contribution to the ACP over the past years, as she is leaving her current role.
11.2 Members discussed this consultation document which is aimed at reviewing the FSA framework. Members noted their concerns that the formal structure of the consultation was rather opaque and some of the questions were really complex to answer properly, requiring a great deal of information. However they commented that the science and evidence base used by the FSA was strong and it also showed good awareness of consumer concerns
11.3 Members agreed to respond to this consultation in letter form.
12. Agenda Item 10: Date of Next Meeting
12.1 The Open Meeting on 9 November 2009 commencing 11am at The Monk Bar Hotel, York, followed by ACP 340 on Tuesday 10 November 2009, commencing 10.00am, at Foss House, York.
13. Any Other Business
13.1 The Committee considered the items for information received since the last meeting. Commenting on the number of freedom of information enquiries requesting data on members fees and expenses, members noted that a more interesting line of questioning would be a consideration of the ‘in kind’ contributions made by all members, as it was likely they all received significantly below their usual consultancy rate for ACP work.
J G Ayres