The 11th Annual ACP Open Meeting was held at the Park Inn, York, on Monday 15th November 2010. It was attended by around 100 people. All current ACP Members were present. This years’ Meeting was held in association with the Pesticides Forum, and the Chairs of both the Pesticides Forum and Amenity Forum addressed the Meeting.
Note: Links are provided to the presentations used at the Meeting. Such presentations are the intellectual property of the presenters, and may not be reproduced in full or in part without the express prior written consent of the presenter.
The ACP Chairman, Professor Jon Ayres, welcomed attendees to the Meeting.
Scientific Advice to Government
The Chairman, Professor Jon Ayres, gave a presentation [link to Jon Ayres presentation] on the historic, current and future role of the ACP and scientific advice to Government in general.
He said that the first advisory committee dealing with pesticides was established in the 1950s, with the ACP being established in 1977 as an independent scientific advisory committee, one with a regulatory role. With the review of ‘quangos’ undertaken by the Coalition Government, the future of the ACP and other scientific committees came under the spotlight. Despite a leak in September 2010 suggesting otherwise, the ACP along with many other similar committees will survive but will be reconstituted as an Expert Scientific Committee.
The Chairman said that he had been assured by the Minister of State, Lord Henley, that it was very much ‘business as usual’. ACP would continue to provide advice, remain independent and, although not regulated, would continue to comply with OCPA (Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments) guidance and the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees (CoPSAC). As the EU route in the approval of pesticides becomes more dominant ACP’s regulatory work will reduce.
The details of future role of the ACP may be slightly uncertain, but the Chairman would work with Government and the Chief Scientist to ensure that it retained its influence, integrity and openness. Prof Ayres stated that in the five years of his Chairmanship of the Committee, the relationship with CRD/PSD had been extraordinarily good and he expected this to continue.
The audience were invited to question the Chairman.
Chris Wallwork (United Agri Products (UAP))
Question - Which parts of the ACP work are regulatory and which non regulatory?
Answer – The Chairman responded that new actives make up part of the regulatory role, and there are other areas where its advice through the Committee and its Panels feeds into understanding. The strict regulatory role is where the ACP looks at new active substances and results in advice to Ministers as to if products containing the substance should be licensed. Anything other than advice on specific substances is advisory, but it may of course have a regulatory impact.
James Clarke (Chairman of the Pesticides Forum/ADAS)
Question - The UK is often the preferred regulator for approval holders. The role the ACP plays in the regulatory process needs to be fully understood and should the ACP ask whether the decision to reduce the regulatory role of the ACP is correct?
Answer – The Chairman said that the ACP must not be over cautious or over extravagant. The Committee will consider going back to Ministers to address if its checking role is removed – indeed other Committees may be having similar thoughts in the light of the recent changes to advisory committees. This decision will be made once the chairman has had meetings with CRD officers about the future work programme for ACP.
Julian Hasler (National Farmers Union (NFU))
Question – Does this mean you see the ACP as having a part supervisory role over CRD? If not, who might have?
Answer – The Chairman noted that this ACP did not really have a supervisory role as such, as many issues are dealt with by CRD and do not need to involve the ACP. However the Chairman does carry out an annual audit where a check is carried out of a random sample of CRD evaluations. This results in a marking, and recommendations, which the Chairman said are welcomed and followed by CRD.
Derek Hargreaves (Independent, and representing the Cucumber Growers’ Association [CGA])
Question - Approval holders are not seeing UK as the first choice to evaluator as other EU Member States approve uses on minor and horticultural crops more easily.
Answer – The Chairman stated that this was a general and sweeping statement in his view and that the UK was broadly speaking the first choice of most applicants for new substances. However, there may well be anomalies in certain areas. He commented that CRD procedures are robust, but it would be appreciated that he would be unable to comment on particular active substances and uses.
The Work of the Pesticides Forum
The Chair of the Pesticides Forum, James Clarke, addressed the audience [link to James Clarke presentation], drawing attention to the Forum’s Annual Report. Mr Clarke explained that the Forum consisted of a number of representative organisations and observers. Its aim is to oversee work under the UK Pesticide Strategy, monitor the effects of legislation, policies and initiatives that affect or are affected by pesticides, and to offer advice to Ministers and stakeholders. It also provides a forum for exchanging views, and has scientific aims in knowledge transfer, monitoring effects and communication.
Mr Clarke explained that the Forum had recently repeated the Amateur Survey which had identified the key issues of retail staff training, improvements in the disposal practice for unwanted products and local authority provision for disposal. The Amenity Survey was close to completion and had highlighted the training and qualifications for staff users particularly in the local authority sector and the uptake of best practice.
In summary Mr Clarke said that the use of pesticides is not impacting adversely on UK health or environment, and that although statutory and voluntary controls are effective, there is scope to reduce risks further. Pesticide usage is clearly affected by season, availability of product, resistance and commodity prices. The training of pesticide users is increasing. Opportunities for improvement would focus on the reduction of water bodies a risk from pesticides, cutting the risk of decline in bird species and more recycling of packaging. It was essential to cut misuse and/or abuse, and there should be a wider adoption of best practice in the amenity sector. Best practice protects health, water and biodiversity, produces the quantity and quality of food required and better manages vegetation in public places.
Future plans included the implementation of the Thematic Strategy (especially the Sustainable Use Directive), and the evolution of IPM/ICM (integrated pest management/integrated crop management).
Mr Clarke invited questions.
Prof Ayres advised the Meeting that the ACP had set up a short life working group, which was tasked to review methods of capturing data on Human Health Incidents. This would report by Easter 2011.
Will Terry (Farmer)
Question – There seems to be a massive reliance on the effect of pesticides on bird numbers. Could the reduction in bird population be caused by land management, predation or external environmental factors? Is the removal of food sources a significant factor, as we do not believe pesticides are killing birds? Are we using herbicides in a more effective way? The job of the farming and horticultural industry is to provide food for humans.
Answer – Mr Clarke began by saying that none of the indicators are ideal but there is evidence for some bird deaths under the Wildlife Incidents Investigation Scheme (WIIS), but not through widespread proper use. However, it is clear that the removal of plants and insects, as well as weather and food are factors. There has been an attempt to devise a chick food index.
Dr Alastair Leake (ACP Member) commented that this was an incredibly complicated issue in which pesticides only are a small part. The loss of winter stubbles, and insects during chick hatch time as well as the pinch point from the end of February to May are likely causes. He agreed that some species are heavily affected by predation.
Prof Ayres stated this is an example of the problem of finding robust indicators. The Pesticides Forum should be congratulated on its efforts, and would welcome suggestions on alternatives.
Mr Terry responded that this is an emotive concern and the uninformed will see a direct correlation with pesticides which would always be backed by the media.
Mr Clarke summarised by saying the Forum report stated that this was just one factor. They were looking at field margins to bring additional biodiversity, and the issue would be revisited under the Pesticide Forum’s biodiversity action plan.
Mike Rowbottom (Bee Craft Ltd)
Question – Mr Rowbottom about managed pollinators and their decline. Would it be effective to use the availability of pollinators?
Answer – Mr Clarke said that the Forum would address availability of pollinators into the biodiversity plan.
Roger Johnson (member of the public)
Question – It should not be taken as read that birds do not die from pesticides. There is concern that the data used by the Forum come from sources not their own.
Answer – Mr Clarke stated that as they do not have a budget for this, the best they can do is report on data that are available. The Forum is trying to paint a picture with what is available, and influence what may become available later. He pointed out that two of the leading bird groups (BTO and RSPB) are providing data. There are so many indicators and aspects to this subject that reporting has to be critical and to react where the data are not robust. The UK datasets are better than those from other EU Member States, and we are trying to feed our experience into the EU. A postcode map of incidents would be helpful.
Chris Wallwork (UAP)
Question – Mr Wallwork stated that biodiversity and birds is a very complex issue. The loss of some herbicides in the horticultural crop sector has led to an increase of weeds. This has resulted in more hand weeding and the use of inter row machinery which leads to the loss of ground nesting birds (eg skylarks and plovers) in horticultural crops.
Answer – Mr Clarke confirmed this view pointing out that some horticultural crops have such a short cycle they are not in the ground long enough for wildlife to establish.
Pesticide Use in Amenity Areas
The work of the Amenity Forum was outlined by its Chair, Professor John Moverley. He began his presentation [link to John Moverley presentation] by explaining that the Amenity Forum is the collective body representing the amenity industry in relation to pesticide use. It aims to promote and encourage proper and responsible use of pesticides and integrated methods for the control of pests, weeds and disease; lead and encourage best practice; coordinate and encourage the use of sustainable qualifications, training and CPD activity for the amenity sector; and to organise activities within the Forum membership and linked organisations to ensure that its objectives are developed in a coordinated way.
Prof Moverley demonstrated a wide range of initiatives and actions of the Amenity Forum, putting the use of pesticides in the sector into context. In thanking the ACP for the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the amenity sector and how it impacts on us all, Prof Moverley summarised that pesticides remain important in the maintenance of amenity areas. The sector is adopting innovative and integrated approaches, and along with the Forum, it seeks to lead rather than follow.
Prof Moverley invited questions.
Jane Johnson (member of the public)
Question – Mrs Johnson said that she was worried about children’s playgrounds and the cumulative effect of pesticide use on children’s health.
Answer – Prof Moverley said that safety of people was of paramount importance, but in reality weeds have to be controlled for health and safety reasons.
Stephen Creasey (Wakefield Metropolitan District Council - WMDC) commented that this is a very difficult and controversial field. He said that councils routinely worked with schools and other bodies, and ensured that where pesticides were used (glyphosate being the most widely used), training, communication and best practice ensured few problems. Mr Creasey stated that in his experience pesticides are safe, when used correctly and in 20 years he had encountered few problems.
Question – Mr Clarke asked if voluntary approaches were sufficient or was more regulation required.
Answer – Prof Moverley felt that legislation should be the last resort, believing that proper codes of practice should be adequate. People must adhere to the systems, which should be embraced by the amenity sector. He said that as an allotment holder, he was very keen on the amateur garden sector, but this was an area that appeared to be the most difficult to control. Allotment growers must take responsibility to ensure all guidance is followed.
Tom Bals (Micron Sprayers)
Question – Mr Bals asked whether the Amenity Forum were calling for more research for equipment management and application factors for example to include equipment factors in the HardSPEC model
(this model is used for predicting concentrations of pesticides in surface water and groundwater from applications to hard surfaces).
Answer – Prof Moverley said that there was some good equipment available, which when used correctly causes no problems. The use of glyphosate is important as there is little alternative to its use.
John Parkinson (Retired Local Authority Specifier)
Question – Mr Parkinson said that the success of working with local authorities dealing with scheduled weeds such as ragwort seems to be ignored.
Answer – Prof Moverley said this was not a case of ignoring it, but there is a growing issue and problem and there was a need to ensure that others were aware the issue is creating a problem.
Stephen Creasey (WMDC)
Question – said that the sharing of information works well in the Northern Amenity Forum. Councils are looking at focussing on methods of application. Operators need to counter the view that pesticides are always damaging and this needs to be publicised.
Answer – Prof Moverley said that the sector should use the Amenity Forum website, and make its views known.
The Sustainable Use Directive – Progress Update
Grant Stark of CRD provided the Meeting with an update on the implementation of the Sustainable Use Directive [link to Grant Stark presentation]. The consultation had been launched in February 2010, and the initial findings were discussed with new Government Ministers in June. A detailed review followed, the outcomes of which will be published at the end of 2010. In order for new legislation to be in place by December 2011, legislation will be passed, and agreements established with industry organisations before the summer of 2011.
Mr Stark said that pesticides need to be controlled, but responsible use brings benefits to society, food and infrastructure. We must ensure safe and sustainable use, and with the challenges facing public finances we need to allow industry to operate profitably and help play a part in the financial wellbeing of the country.
The Directive requires Member States to take measures many of which are already in UK law, or part of voluntary practices. The aim is to raise standards across the EU, but the framework directive is not prescriptive, and allows Member States to adapt to their own circumstances. The UK response to the requirements is not yet finalised.
Mr Stark invited questions.
Question – Prof Ayres asked what the level of response to the Consultation was.
Answer – Mr Stark said that around 300 responses were received. These varied in detail, from brief comments to documents of 130-140 pages, but represented a wide range of stakeholder views that were useful to the process.
Dr Bill Parker (ACP Member/Horticultural Development Council (HDC))
Question – Dr Parker asked what is to be enshrined in legislation that is not currently required.
Answer – Mr Stark responded that some legislation is required to ensure distributors sell product only to qualified competent buyers, and the need for aerial sprayers to obtain specific consents. In other areas there are alternative options to use voluntary schemes and existing legislation. The strong deregulatory environment may mean that some current legal controls might in future be done on a voluntary basis.
Dr Laura Potts (Hull and York Medical School - HYMS)
Question – - How do you envisage the Sustainable Use Directive enhancing public health, and what measures are in place to get feedback on the Directive so that improvements can be made?
Answer – Mr Stark stated that indicators should measure the effectiveness of the whole regulatory process, including authorisations, presence of residues, outcomes and behavioural measures, and not just the Directive itself. The messages received will determine the way forward, with a more formal review of the Directive due in 2018. It is likely that further measures will follow if deemed necessary. National and EU indicators are being developed. The UK is doing much of what is already in the Directive, but there is scope for other things, for example voluntary initiatives, and for industry to offer practical advice.
Vivian Powell (HDC)
Question – Controls to monitor effectiveness are already in place in the UK. However, other Member States are not as advanced as the UK, so what steps are in place to ensure improvement?
Answer – Mr Stark agreed that all Member States are coming from different starting positions, and it is recognised that the scope for change will be greater in some countries.
Question and Answer Session
Attendees to the Meeting had been invited to submit questions in advance. The Chairman led a discussion on these issues and along with Members of the ACP responded to the points raised.
Question 1 – John Gatenby (Farmer/Agronomist)
Should ‘hazard’ take precedence over risk?
If so, why are we not able to set Maximum Residue Level (MRL)s for non EU approved pesticides at the limit of detection?
Prof Ayres commented that hazard is the intrinsic danger posed by a substance and risk is the probability that the hazard will be realised. The new EU Regulation that will apply from June 2011 will prohibit the use of some substances on the basis of hazard alone. The UK will lose some active substances. The position of the UK Government and the ACP is that risk assessment is the appropriate way to decide whether to allow the use of a substance, or the consumption of a foodstuff. However, the EU regulation will have to be dealt with as best as we can.
Dr Caroline Harris (ACP) said that MRLs are set on a pan-European basis, and if a product is not approved in the EU, it must still be assessed as the active substance would be to obtain an import tolerance. The risk assessment processes are exactly the same and this ensures a level playing field.
Mr Gatenby stated that in the UK if an active substance cannot be used we are restricted on what crops we can grow satisfactorily. He added that if the crops are produced outside the EU we have exported UK production but imported residues.
Dr Laura Potts (HYMS) said that hazard is an important approach in public health terms and concerns shift to health issues. We need to ensure that the same levels of safety are applied across the world and ensure we do not import residues, but this is not an argument against the ideology of hazard. There is a need to ensure that farmers and workers in less developed countries are protected in order to ensure health is not compromised.
Prof Ayres commented that the counter to hazard is scientific lack of logic. Several things (eg the motor car) could be banned as there are clear risks associated. Dr Potts stated that car production and driving is regulated, but Prof Ayres said this is risk based.
Ms Jennifer Dean (ACP) commented that risk incorporates many factors, which is why departments use a risk based approach. Hazard is only one factor, and we have to look at the mathematical probability of risk which takes account of much more than a single factor.
Derek Hargreaves (CGA) said that exporting potential problems moves risky uses to other countries. We must not make pesticide use so stringent that it is exported to other countries such as India and China where controls are not as good. There is less room for argument if all adopt the same approach.
Cathy Knott asked why benefit is not mentioned any more. Prof Ayres commented that the real issue are around the difficulty of how one balances up the various metrics in a risk benefit analysis. There is probably only one common factor – money!
Question 2 – Derek Hargreaves (Cucumber Growers’ Association)
Why is it that after so many years of “harmonisation” of pesticide approvals across EU member states there appears to be little or no evidence of such activity when you compare product availability in (say) Spain and Holland with the UK. The reasons for concern are examples such as the differences that exist - for example – with imazalil - sold as Fungaflor and Imaz etc. Fungaflor has been removed from sale in the UK but is still available in The Netherlands. When it was available here it had a three day harvest interval - the harvest interval in The Netherlands is one day.
The product Imaz has been cleared for sale in the UK but has never been offered for sale. The fact that it is still approved is blocking (so I am informed) potential applications for other active ingredients for powdery mildew control in cucumbers - at least until the approval lapses at the end of January 2011 and the final use up will be at the end of 2011. (I do appreciate that imazalil has been reinstated to the Annex 1 list and may become available again - with a three day harvest interval in the UK.)
Also the active ingredient bifenazate - sold as Floramite. The product has been sold in The Netherlands since 2004 and has clearance for use on Strawberry crops in the UK. CRD has blocked clearance on cucumbers and other salad crops for whatever reason (actually including operator safety issues) for some years now. (Again I appreciate there are new rules covering re-entry times after pesticide applications - but the UK seems always to take the longest route to any answer.)
The concern has to be if these products are safe (in The Netherlands) then why are they not safe in the UK? - or looking from the other direction if they are not safe to be used with lower harvest intervals in the case of imazalil or at all in the case of bifenazate in the UK are the Dutch authorities being reckless in their action in approving such products there?
I put these same questions to Dr Kerr Wilson of CRD in July and am still waiting for a full answer. I would be interested in any comments from the ACP.
Prof Ayres opened by saying that he could not comment on specific products at the meeting.
Dr Martin McPherson (ACP) said that he sympathised with the problem – UK horticulture is suffering in terms of availability of product. The SCEPTRE scheme (a Defra Horticultural LINK Programme project coordinated by the Horticultural Development Council to facilitate registration of new products) seeks to fill some gaps responsible for disease issues, but we cannot control what manufacturers choose to do. We must remember that the UK is a minor market to some in industry.
Mr Hargreaves agreed that the total UK cucumber acreage could fit on one farm, but pointed out that just because it was a minor crop in a small industry it does not mean there should not be any pesticides available. Prof Ayres commented that the regulatory process did not consider industry size.
Dr Sibylle Brosius (BASF) asked if it possible to get mutual recognition for products. Richard Davis (CRD) stated that it was, but Mr Hargreaves pointed out that this depended on the product being sold in the UK.
Dr Bill Parker (ACP) asked about commercial availability, and whether the regulatory process decisions were uniform across Europe. Mr Davis said that he could not respond to specifics, but harmonisation comes through uniform principles. Data and risk assessment may be different (eg exposures) in each Member State, but this is something CRD are working with industry to address. Mr Hargreaves stressed the urgency of this.
Question 3 – Margaret Ford (member of the public)
Is a notification system, as discussed in the consultation, in the process of being implemented? If not, what is the justification for the delay?
Ms Ford stated that her health had been harmed by the irresponsible use of pesticides. Prof Ayres commented that part of Mr Stark’s presentation had focussed on notification.
Dave Bench (CRD) said he could not add much as Defra Ministers are considering their response to the legislation. However, elements (eg prior notification) in the Sustainable Use Directive and Regulation are all optional elements left to the Member State.
Ms Ford said that this was an important issue that appeared to be being addressed. She also commented that there should not be an undue burden on those who have to provide the information.
Laura Potts asked what is meant by ‘vulnerable groups’. Mr Stark said this was defined in the Directive.
Chris Wallwork (UAP) commented that regulation can make irresponsible use less common, but a minority may still not comply.
Ms Ford asked whether there was an informal mechanism on which we can build. Mr Bench said that the NFU and others have published good neighbour schemes that encourage farmers communicate effectively with neighbours. CRD encourages that approach.
Question 4 – Jane Johnson (member of the public)
As the HSE appears to struggle when investigating individual exposures, what confidence can we have in their ability to respond to a more widespread incident?
Prof Ayres said this was more a question for Health and Safety Executive (HSE) rather than the ACP, but he was aware that HSE inspectors follow up large obvious incidents. It can be difficult to investigate a single incident associated with possible exposure to a pesticide, particularly if it involves possible exposure to a person other than the operator. The ACP, through its Working Groups, has been working on how systems used in the UK to monitor health effects can be improved.
Dave Bench said that with the integration of CRD into HSE, CRD could work more closely with HSE Field Operations inspectors, and make them more knowledgeable about pesticide issues. Late reporting of pesticide incidents makes the HSE task more difficult in investigating individual incidents.
Ms Ford stated that although she had been in immediate contact with HSE over an incident that affected her, they would not act until they were informed what was in the product being sprayed. Mr Bench offered to discuss the incident with her further.
Question 5 – Roger Johnson (member of the public)
As a child, I lost my father, a research chemist in the war, to benzene poisoning. I myself have a diagnosis of Parkinson's and a history of organochlorine exposure. Both my children have experienced severe health problems following separate pesticide exposures. Beyond hollow claims that chemicals are getting safer, what reassurance can you offer for the health of future generations?
Prof Ayres said that exposure to chemicals in general was of concern, but he was reassured that approaches to assessment were at least enshrined in the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) legislation for which the HSE is the competent authority in the UK. There are tens of thousands of chemicals used each year and we have no idea of the hazards associated with the vast majority. The REACH process is prioritising, but there is a huge task with challenging timescales.
Prof Peter Matthiessen (ACP) pointed out that REACH does not cover pesticides. However, we are in a better position with pesticides, as regulation requires a huge amount of data. But we can never be certain that there is no risk.
Prof Gay Hawksworth (ACP) said that there are a lot more data on pesticides, and the overall risk from other chemicals generally is higher. There are concerns about more testing on animals some of which does not always achieve results, but alternatives for chemicals and cosmetics are constantly being investigated.
Jane Johnson said that the cocktail of pesticides is a concern. Prof Hawksworth said that the toxicity of mixtures must be fully understood.
Prof Ayres commented there are examples of combinations with additive and multiplicative toxicity and he accepted the concerns and was pleased that legislation was asking for something to be done to assess such risks.
Question 6 – Mike Rowbottom (Bee Craft Ltd)
Beekeepers greatly value work to establish the effects of insecticides on honeybees and honeybee colonies. Since the parasitic mite Varroa Destructor has become established in Apis Mellifera colonies the presence of virus infections in honeybee colonies is now much more evident. The microsporidian Nosema Ceranaehas also spread widely among honeybee colonies.
The general health of honeybee colonies has probably declined in recent years as a result of these two factors.
a) How is this decline in honeybee health being taken into account in the testing of the effect(s) of pesticides on honeybees?
b) Is there value in repeating previous tests but on colonies known to be experiencing higher levels of virus and/or microsporidian infections, to determine if these disease issues are resulting in a greater impact from the pesticides?"
Professor Robert Smith (ACP) said that the risk to honeybees is routinely assessed as part of the regulatory risk assessment, but a decline in health is not taken into account in testing. The studies required use healthy colonies as the aim is to study the impact on foraging honeybees, and it is clear that any impact on diseased or unhealthy bees would be from a combination of the pesticide and the disease. The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) would indicate if there were problems but relies on information submitted to the scheme. There is around £10m being spent on nine research projects on bees. Prof Smith would be happy to discuss further studies with CRD should funding be available.
Dr Rowbottom said that the National Bee Unit is currently undertaking a project on bee health in the UK. Beekeepers are using some pesticides themselves and question if there may be interaction with environmental pesticides.
Prof Smith said the measured approach of UK beekeepers to this question is appreciated, and they are not panicking like in some parts of the EU.
Question 7 – Julian Blomley (Blomley International Environmental & Associates)
As ACP is a quango (Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB)) which is to be abolished, what is going to happen to its current responsibilities & projects? Is its remit no longer needed?
Has the Coalition Government, together with DWP/HSE and/or Defra, determined that the regulation of pesticides should now be given the light touch approach (or even the no touch approach)?
By the way what exactly is a “committee of experts” (Expert Scientific Committee)? How is such a committee administered?
What will this committee be able to do with a “zero” (I presume) budget?
Will it not have an annual open meeting?
The questioner and the Chairman agreed that much of this question had been dealt with during the morning session. Prof Ayres said that the Government Chief Scientist had recommended that any Department using science should have a Scientific Advisory Council. Although most scientific committees do not have an advisory role, the good ones don’t just sit there – they undertake horizon scanning and identify potential issues giving prior notice to Departments.
Prof Ayres said that with the ACP, much would carry on as before, but in his view the same may not be the case for other scientific committees.
Question 8 – Vivian Powell (HDC)
We were informed that the intention of Directive 91/414/EEC was to improve harmonisation of crop protection products across Europe. Indeed at an earlier meeting of ACP Mr Phil Woolas [at the time Environment Minister at Defra] informed the audience, in particular Mr C Frampton, that this would enable growers to access products used elsewhere via Mutual Recognition procedures. Are there instances where UK regulators are using a significantly more precautionary approach in comparison with other Member States and if so why?
The Chairman said some of this had been touched on in earlier discussion. Since the inception of 91/414 there has been much progress in the harmonisation of risk assessment. However, Mutual Recognition is a route where there may be some legitimate reasons why some Member States may require further information to confirm the safety of use in that country.
With the introduction of the new Regulation there will be further opportunities for harmonisation, but differences will remain as countries must operate different options for risk management or mitigation (for example buffer zones for water protection).
Prof Ayres said in his view the drive to harmonisation should go from the EU to global harmonisation.
Question 9 – Vivian Powell (HDC)
We are aware that other EU Member States use the 120 day emergency approach on a regular basis- issuing continued extensions on a no fee basis. What is the potential for UK regulators to use the same approach particularly for products classified as low risk
Prof Ayres said that the ACP had dealt with a few applications for emergency use. Any repeated applications would not be considered emergency use, as this is only allowable because of an unforeseen danger which cannot be controlled by other means. Since 2005, there have been around 600 emergency authorisations in the EU, of which 16% have been repeated once, 10% repeated twice and 10% three times. We can be confident this does not represent mass use of the process.
Mrs Powell commented that she felt the regulatory process can delay some products being available for use in the UK.
Derek Hargreaves stated that there had been a 120 day emergency approval for a product, but by the time it was available to growers, half of the 120 day approval period had expired.
Richard Davis (CRD) said that the UK adhered to the main purpose of emergency authorisations but other Member States have interpreted them differently. The European Commission are tightening up on the process and intend it to be used as a last resort.
Mrs Powell said that it was a difficult situation for horticulture. Prof Ayres asked whether applicants are being put off making emergency authorisations.
Mrs Powell said they would only make applications when it was essential as they did not want to abuse the situation.
Question 10 – Bolette P Neve (HDC)
The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is an integrated part of the operations for horticultural growers in the UK. Are there plans to include the protection that PPE provides in risk assessment modelling for pesticide approvals in the UK as is the case in other EU Member States (MS)?
Dr John Cocker (ACP) said that use of PPE is taken account in risk assessments for operators and requirements are available to operators, but it may be that information does not always reach the workers who may not know what product is being used on the crop. CRD are currently working with the horticultural industry in order to gain a better understanding of practices and to improve risk assessments. This would allow consideration of the use of PPE as a risk mitigation option.
The Chairman then invited further questions from the floor of the Meeting.
Question - Mr Hargreaves said he understood that the worker may not be aware of what was being applied to the crop but it may be too costly to produce data for such a small market.
Answer - The Chairman said that a similar problem arose in medicines where small drugs trials cannot be developed, and the niche market suffers. Mr Hargreaves commented that it was frustrating for UK growers.
Martin Pearce (Plant Impact Ltd)
Question – Mr Pearce asked where the ACP could help smaller innovation companies come forward when multi nationals do not, and when the regulation bar is set too high for small companies.
Answer – The Chairman said that while the ACP had sympathy no-one could reduce the criteria because of cost. In a medicine analogy, really good ideas are developed by major drug companies. The ACP could advise but has no budget.
Question – Mr Gatenby stated that he was involved with the production of a novel fibre crop in association with De Montford University. He pointed out that there had not been any work done on weed control in nettles, although he is currently using a product which is approved for use in all broadleaved crops!
Answer – The Chairman would take this point away from the Meeting. James Clarke commented that this might be relevant to the availability action plan, questioned how successful it had been and suggested it might be time to refresh or review. He suggested this was a question for CRD rather than the ACP.
Question – Mr Wallwork said that as a broad issue there are a number of minor crops with potential for food production which were not grown as weeds could not be controlled. The opportunity to use biocides rather than traditional chemicals was there, but the barriers, particularly in the UK, seem high. Other EU Member States seem to have a wider range of biological pesticides.
Answer – The Chairman said the ACP had been expecting a surge in applications and that this had not materialised. Mr Wallwork said that this ties in with the Mutual Recognition Issue, and the problems of getting in to a small market. This may be attractive if there were not the barriers that currently appear to exist.
Richard Davis said that CRD was open to discuss issues. He confirmed that CRD (PSD) had introduced a biocide scheme which encouraged companies to explore regulatory standards and obtain assistance in the generation of data. The European Commission had put the reviews of the biological pesticides at the back of the queue but they are now with the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). Once they are on Annex 1 of the Authorisations Directive there will be more activity. Dave Bench added that now is the right time to publish a national action plan to influence future policy.
Vivian Powell said that the HDC had funded two availability projects and appreciated the dialogue with CRD. Derek Hargreaves noted that two biopesticides are available to UK horticulture, but most are being sold as plant stimulants.
Peter Chapman (independent consultant) stated that the biologicals have been placed on Annex 1, in advance of the EFSA peer review. However, Richard Davis pointed out that few applications had been received.
Martin Pearce said that there was a mismatch between the regulation and products sold as biostimulants that are not regulated. Richard Davis said that every regulation has its boundaries and there will always be someone attempting to avoid regulation.
The Chairman thanked all attendees and presenters and the Meeting closed at 4pm.