Minutes of the Eleventh Meeting of the Pesticides Forum Held on 13 October 1999 at DETR, Great Minster House, London
1. Those Present
1.1 Those who attended are listed at Annex A. Apologies for absence were received from Richard Knight (FWAG) and John Handbury (AEA). Thomas Bals attended on behalf of AEA and Christopher Wise on behalf of the NFU.
For the observers, apologies were received from Lynne Griffiths (NAWAD), Glynne Jones (HSE) and Bob Abel (DETR).
Geoff Bruce (PSD) introduced Nigel Chadwick (Joint Secretariat from PSD) who has taken over from Matthew Wells, and David Williams (PSD Observer) who has taken over from Tim Davis.
2. Minutes of the Meeting Held in June 1999
There were no comments on or corrections to the minutes. Progress on Actions Arising was updated. The letter from PSD about ladybirds and biological control has now been sent to Tam Dalyell MP.
3. Reports from Organisations (Paper PF 81)
3.1 LEAF reported that Caroline Drummond has returned from Australia with the news that the UK is recognised world-wide for operating best practice in relation to the agricultural industry.
3.2 UKASTA reported that the first 3 places in the Arable Farmer of the Year Awards had gone to TIBRE farmers.
4. Future development of the Pesticides Forum (Paper PF82)
4.1 The Secretariat introduced this paper which was intended to promote discussion on the way ahead for the Forum to coincide with Ministers' agreement to review the membership, operation and activities of the Forum towards the end of 1999. It was time to build on the Action Plan and to agree a framework of objectives and a strategy for taking them forward. Items from paper PF 82 for consideration the Forum members were outlined and views/discussion on the various questions raised in the paper were invited.
4.2 Members favoured concentrating on a few main issues that would have the greatest influence on reducing pesticide impacts on the environment. It was important to focus efforts on a few 'problems' which could be taken forward as themes; the issue of IPU in water was quoted as an example of a problem. Some concern was expressed about the continued generation of new 'variations on a theme' with little attempt to bring them together which has the potential to confuse rather than aid the responsible use of pesticides.
4.3 The Chairman invited comments about the appropriateness of the terms of reference of the Forum. There was a general consensus that the Forum should consider the use of GM technologies and other new initiatives in as far as they will have an impact on pesticide usage. However, it was agreed that no change to the broad terms of reference was required to reflect this point.
4.4 The idea of producing a 'basket of outcomes' with clearly identified targets and systems in place to measure and monitor progress and success of any particular policy actions or initiatives was floated and received wide support. Whilst the public are concerned about aspects of pesticide use, it was important that the Forum should continue to concentrate on minimising the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment. As an example, it was felt that the uptake of Crop Assurance Schemes by farmers and growers could be used as a measure of success of one particular consumer-driven initiative. The requirement for indicators to measure the effectiveness of policies to move from more to less environmentally damaging chemicals and approaches was noted.
4.5 Attention was drawn to Paper 80i, summarising the OECD report on Integrated Pest Management, and it was suggested that the conclusions should be adopted by the Forum as a way of guiding future actions. This report of a workshop reflects the views of various stakeholders from many countries over the years and would be a valuable reference point for national activity. There was general agreement that conclusions from the workshop should be incorporated into the objectives of the Forum.
4.6 The Chairman raised the issue of whether the membership was appropriate to the Forum's objectives. There was a general agreement that the membership of the Forum should not expand as this might reduce the effectiveness of meetings. However, there were suggestions that there should be greater representation from education and training establishments (there is currently no representation from an English higher education establishment or from 'grassroots' trainers at the farm level.) Other suggestions included a representative for the crop assurance schemes and the Food and Drink Federation who had expressed an interest in becoming members of the Forum.
4.7 Setting up sub-groups to consider particular topics of priority has been suggested as one way for the Forum to proceed. This idea received broad support from members and the formation of groups to discuss the outcomes from the OECD Workshop on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was considered. The Secretariat agreed to produce a paper setting out possible topics for sub-groups based on the discussion and items from Papers PF 80i and PF 82 for Forum members to comment on. The aim should be to distribute this paper as soon as possible after the meeting requesting a quick response from Forum members with a view to having chosen sub-groups operating before the next meeting. It was noted that items for the Forum to consider went beyond IPM and that issues facing ICM and even IFM would be appropriate to consider. It was also pointed out that non-agricultural uses of pesticides were not part of the Forum's remit.
4.8 The Chairman raised the question as to how messages from the work of the Forum might best be brought the attention of the public. The possibility of a press conference, perhaps to be called on a farm operating in line with best practice was suggested. A function of the Forum to inform through public debate was emphasised and concern was expressed that educational establishments may be insufficiently aware of the work of Pesticides Forum. Greater use of the Forum website and the possible production of a newsletter would be helpful in this context.
4.9 There was some concern as to whether efforts to explain the issues of pesticide use to produce food to the public would be helpful. Examples were cited where attempting explanations to the public had escalated concern about issues. Greater emphasis on getting the concept of risk across to the public may be helpful but not easily achieved. The need to educate journalists was considered an important step as ignorance about food and farming issues can lead to misinformed articles. It was concluded that if the Forum has something definite to say to the public, industry or users then it should make every effort to get the point across.
4.10 Members had suggested that financial resources should be made available if the Forum is to take a more active role in sub-groups and in conveying messages. It was recorded that funding may be available from the DETR for publicity materials.
4.11 The Chairman raised the issue of joined up communication between related bodies and committees. Sir Colin Berry agreed to arrange a background document and a presentation for the next Forum meeting detailing how the ACP operates.
4.12 There was agreement that the Forum should look more at new issues for pesticides and take a more forward-looking approach. Such items should be identified and placed on the agenda of future meetings.
4.13 The Chairman outlined the idea of having a "theme or themes for a year". The idea was that the Forum should concentrate on topics of particular importance to achieve practical results. Themes would be taken forward from meeting to and would involve the identification of particular outcomes to be achieved. This idea received general support from the Forum. The secretariat would write to members asking for suggestions for themes to take forward in addition to those noted in PF 82.
5. Development of Decision Aids for Pesticide Use and Disposal (Paper PF 84)
5.1 ADAS presented a paper, commissioned by PSD, on options for decision aids for farmers to assist in the interpretation and implementation of the Codes of Practice and other relevant information. James Clarke and David Turley presented the background to the project, a range of possible decision aids, including SOPs, checklists and CD-ROM mediums, and requested comments from the forum on their relevance and applicability through a series of questions.
5.2 There was a general consensus that a scheme to inform farmers was necessary. The information provided will need to be authoritative, practical and readily understood by the farmer. Some members raised concern that this was yet another source of information for the farmer which might hinder rather than help clarify information about environmental risk. What was the chance of bringing the various systems together? How much discussion had been held with people in the industry as to what they would like to see? Should a survey of spray operators be carried out?
5.3 A short discussion on the problems associated with introducing LERAPs highlighted the fact that messages to farmers needed to be as simple as possible and must get through to the spray operators. It was pointed out that this was the first year of operation and the LERAP scheme would be developed and reviewed regularly.
5.4 The best medium to be used for delivery of the information was debated. IT literacy in the farming community was not high and it would be necessary to ensure that any computer based system was user friendly or else it was likely to be ignored. The convenience of a computer system to a farmer applying pesticides in a field should be questioned.
5.5 The Chairman summarised by saying that a consensus had been reached that electronic systems would play a role in the future for informing farmers. A hard copy would be needed for farmers without access to a computer or in case of machinery failure. He suggested that PSD should reflect on the discussion of the Forum to form views on future direction.
6. Provision of Environmental Information for Pesticides – update by BAA/industry (PaperPF 85)
6.1 David Priestley (BAA) introduced paper PF85 on Environmental Information Sheets (EISs) which summarise the data relevant to the assessment of environmental risk, submitted as part of the approvals process. The main presentation on behalf of three agrochemical companies, by David Farrant, gave a summary of the EISs including the background to the initiative, current developments and the way forward. A pilot scheme had just been launched with questionnaires for return by the end of November. 3,000 copies each of 15 different product sheets had been produced to a standard format for the pilot study.
6.2 The Forum endorsed the initiative and thanked the companies involved for their hard work on this project. The Chairman said that the initiative had addressed a concern raised by the Forum and should enlighten users about the potential environmental impacts of pesticide use and assist in product selection. Members made some suggestions about format and content.
6.3 It was explained that the sheets are paper based at the moment but that there was potential to transfer the information into electronic format after the pilot stage. There would also be potential in the future for the sheets to be supplied with the product when sold.
6.4 A comparison was drawn between this project and the work being taken forward by the Pesticides Trust. However, it was stated that the Pesticide Trust information sheets are focussed on hazard, active ingredients, human health aspects and food residue concerns. There was an overlap on environmental concern but the two initiatives were likely to be complementary.
6.5 The requirement for an independent audit of the sheets was noted by the Forum to ensure credibility and wide acceptance. PSD had looked at the draft guidelines that companies would have to follow in preparing the sheets but an audit would still be important. It was also pointed out that to be an effective decision making tool, all products would eventually need an EIS. It was, therefore, essential to encourage other companies to take up the idea.
7. Pesticide Aquatic Risk Indicator Project – Final Report from FERA(PaperPF 83)
7.1 Andy Hart from The Food and Environment Research Agencypresented the 'threshold' approach to indicate environmental risk to the aquatic environment from pesticides. The approach monitored progress in risk reduction consistent with regulatory risk assessments.
7.2 The Chairman invited comments from the Forum about the validity of the methodology used for the project. The consensus of opinion was that the methodology was sensible and scientifically sound.
7.3 It was noted that it was hoped to present this approach to the OECD at a Risk Reduction Steering Group meeting in December and that their endorsement would be important for taking it forward on a wide front.
7.4 Members raised a number of points relating to reduced application rates, buffer zones (which if enforced would show a significant reduction in risk), the problems associated with taking account of mixtures of active ingredients and the extent to which arable fields are associated with water to pose any risk at all to aquatic wildlife. It was emphasised that the approach was just an indicator and evidence from the field was required for validation of actual changes in risk to the aquatic environment. Is there any evidence that actual risk is reducing?
7.5 The question of adapting the approach to the terrestrial situation was raised. It was felt that this could be achieved if resources were available within a relatively short timeframe (say 3 - 6 months). The end-point data for the terrestrial situation was better than for the aquatic situation but it was noted that some indirect effects of pesticides on wildlife were not currently addressed by the regulatory system.
8. Consideration of the Forum's draft 1999 Annual Report (Paper PF 87)
8.1 John Garrod summarised the format and content of the draft annual report. The aim was to submit the final draft to the ACP in November and it would also be circulated to Forum members for final comment and approval. More information about Forum member's activities during the year was requested.
8.2 It had been suggested that indicators of the uptake of pesticide minimisation measures might be included in the 1999 Annual Report in order to show the influence of the work of the Forum and associated initiatives. However, members questioned the adequacy of the indicators presented and their graphic representation. It was suggested that the indicators might include the work of the OECD FERAproject and that this topic might be a theme for next year to improve the data collected before next year's annual report. Some of the more robust indicators appended to the draft report should be considered for inclusion.
9. Agenda for February 2000
The Chairman suggested that the next meeting might discuss IPM and alternatives to chemical control as a key topic. The first meeting of the Millennium could be a suitable occasion to consider the use of pesticides in the future. There were also likely to be domestic issues and theme(s) for the year to be discussed as well as progress in setting up sub-groups.
The progress of the Assured Produce Scheme was suggested as a topic for the June agenda. There were now three years of data to quantify the increase in the uptake of the scheme.
10. Any Other Business
Dates for meetings in 2000 were confirmed as 16 February, 21 June and 11 October.
Following the success of the meeting held at Morley Research Station, Alastair Leake kindly offered to host the June 2000 meeting at the CWS Focus on Farming Practice farm in Leicestershire.
An update of current progress on the Pesticides Tax was given to members. A decision has yet to be reached about whether to proceed with the tax or not. The next formal announcement about the tax was likely to be in the pre-Budget statement in November.
John Garrod informed Forum members that the Pesticides Forum Website had been updated with new materials and requested Internet addresses of any further organisations that might appropriately be linked directly to the Pesticide Forum website.
John Foley submitted a paper on pesticide MRLs to be distributed to Forum members by the Secretariat.
Dr David Shannon Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Mr Thomas Bals - Agricultural Engineers Association
Mr David Barnett - Country Landowners Association
Mr Peter Beaumont - The Pesticides Trust
Sir Colin Berry - Advisory Committee on Pesticides
Mrs Helen Bower - Women's Farming Union
Dr Anne Buckenham - British Agrochemicals Association
Mr James Clarke - ADAS
Mr Jonathan Curtoys - Wildlife and Countryside Link
Dr Keith Dawson - United Kingdom Agricultural Supply Trade Association
Mr John Foley - Fresh Produce Consortium/British Retail Consortium
Dr Claire Johnson - The Consumers Association
Dr Alastair Leake - CWS - Focus on Farming Practice
Mr Barrie Orme - Basis Registration Limited
Mr David Richardson - Linking Environment and Farming
Mr Charles Russell - Scottish Farmers' Union
Mr Peter Segger - UK Register of Organic Farming Standards
Dr Nick Sotherton - The Game Conservancy Trust
Dr Stuart Wale - Scottish Agricultural College
Dr Chris Wise - National Farmers' Union
Mr Nigel Chadwick - Pesticides Safety Directorate
Dr John Garrod - Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Miss Nicola Lettington - Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Mr Geoff Bruce - Pesticides Safety Directorate
Mr Martin Johnston - Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department
Mr Gareth Jones - Department of Health
Dr Sam Kennedy - Department of Agriculture Northern Ireland
Dr Ian Lawrence - Department of Trade and Industry
Mr David Williams - Pesticides Safety Directorate
Mr David Farrant - Dow AgroSciences
Dr Andy Hart - Central Science Laboratories
Mr David Priestley - British Agrochemicals Association
Dr Miles Thomas - The Food and Environment Research Agency
Mr David Turley - ADAS