Minutes of the 28th Pesticides Forum Meeting held on 12 October 2005 at Defra Offices, Nobel House, London, SW1
Those present are listed at Annex A
1. Apologies for Absence
Nigel Chadwick recorded apologies for absence:
Michael Woodhouse, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG); Tony Palmer, Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC)/British Retail Consortium (BRC); Stuart Smith, Health and Safety Executive (HSE); Lesley George, Welsh Assembly Government (WAG); Ian McKee and Linda Meldrum, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (DARDNI); and Tim Davis, Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD).
The Chair welcomed Jill Hewitt, National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) and Shaun Faulkner (Brent Council) who were attending for the seminar in the afternoon on local authority use of pesticides.
There were also a number of changes reported within the Pesticides Safety Directorate including Nicola Parry replacing Sue Rambridge and Nigel Chadwick replacing Matthew Wells in the Forum Secretariat, Adrian Dixon replacing David Williams as the head of Pesticides Environment Policy Branch, Grant Stark joining Pesticides Environment Policy Branch and Tim Davis temporarily replacing Sue Popple as the Director of Policy. Finally, the Chair reported that this would be the last meeting which David Coggon (Advisory Committee on Pesticides) would attend as he was stepping down from his role as chair of the ACP. The Chair offered his special thanks to both David Coggon and Matthew Wells on behalf of the Forum for all their efforts.
2. Minutes and Matters Arising
2a Julian Hasler asked the Secretariat to amend section 5 of the 8 June meeting notes to clarify that the Committee on Toxicity’s Working Group on Risk Assessment of Pesticides and similar substances should read 'Risk Assessment of Mixtures of Pesticides…'
2b The draft ACP paper on alternative approaches to pest control techniques was considered by the meeting. Keith Dawson suggested that there was a risk of a reduction in the quality of produce resulting from growers’ margins being squeezed by supermarkets. He felt that it was important for the Assured Produce Scheme to be aware of these pressures to avoid any conflict with farmer contracts. Peter Pitkin said that there needs to be more research on the benefits of using alternatives and not just focussing on the risks of using them.
2c Hugh van Cutsem asked why there was no mention of trapping using pheromones in the Forum paper. He also asked whether the Forum had considered whether residues from imported produce were similar to those for home produced foods. Keith Dawson explained that the Forum was only asked to respond to specific questions raised by the ACP. David Coggon explained how the Pesticides Residues Committee operates and noted that agricultural practices in other countries had changed and were continuing to change in response to the needs of the UK market. Much of this work was being encouraged and monitored by the supermarkets.
2d The Forum agreed with the paper as drafted and James Clarke kindly agreed to present the paper to the next ACP meeting.
Action: James Clarke and the Secretariat
2e The Chair explained that it was important that the Forum produced the best messages, independent of Defra and Government generally, in publicising the work of the Forum. This is particularly important when it produces any new booklets or its Annual Report.
2f A number of members offered to act as members of this new sub-group. Clare Butler Ellis, Peter Hall, Julian Hasler and Tom Bals all kindly agreed to be part of this new group and Tom Bals also agreed to chair the meetings.
2g David Coggan explained that the ACP had already looked at ways in which they could most effectively publicise their work and suggested that the new Group look at the ACP website for examples of how to best achieve this result.
Action: Secretariat and Communications sub-group members
2h The Chair confirmed that a response had been received from Joanne Harker at the Department for Education and Science (Department for Education and Science (DfES)) regarding the provision of fresh produce in schools. It was noted that DfES was presently undertaking a consultation on school meal procurement and Forum members were encouraged to respond directly if they had any particular issues to make. Details of the DfES consultation were given on their website.
2i Peter Hall raised the issue of the different standards applied in the Assured Produce Scheme between imported and home grown produce. Although UK producers were required to adhere to Assured Produce Scheme standards, imported producers only had to be working towards reaching assured produce standards.
Action: Forum members
2j The Chair offered apologies on behalf of the Forum to James Clarke and his team at ADAS High Mowthorpe for the inconvenience caused by the late cancellation of the visit to the farm resulting from a large number of members withdrawing at a late stage. James Clarke offered to make papers from the day available to members if this would be helpful. He also offered to rearrange a date for the visit. It was agreed that the Secretariat should consult with members to see whether another visit would be worthwhile.
Voluntary Initiative Update
3a Anne Buckenham opened this part of the meeting by briefly explaining what the Voluntary Initiative (VI) had achieved and where initial discussions had suggested that the VI could go following the completion of the existing Initiative in April 2006. It was envisaged that many of the existing programmes would continue and that more could be done to build upon those programmes that already delivered positive benefits to the environment.
3b David Coggon identified the need to know what the VI believed had worked well and what had not. He also thought there was a need for a balance between regulation and voluntary action and that more should be done to encourage the good work already being done by the vast majority of farmers. Anne Buckenham stressed that it was very difficult to directly apportion benefits resulting directly from the VI and what has been achieved through other initiatives and (or) Government action. However, she did point to communications with farmers and growers as one area where there had been significant improvement. However, she felt that there was a need for the Government to take a more positive attitude toward individual initiatives within the VI.
3c Jim Densham believed that it was extremely difficult to measure the benefits to biodiversity resulting from the VI not least because such benefits could take many years to show significant changes. Keith Dawson also thought that biodiversity improvements resulting from general changes in farming practices were probably greater than those achieved through the VI itself.
3d James Clarke was still trying to find out whether Environmental Information Sheets were being used by farmers and, more importantly, whether they were influencing farmer decisions about which pesticide to use. He was also concerned that the VI was not a full partnership between industry and Government. He also thought that there was a need to consider whether any of the Pesticide Forum indicators could be linked to VI improvements. This work could be done by joining both the Forum and VI indicator working groups.
3e Robert Campbell was concerned that the Government had failed to monitor the effectiveness of measures it had introduced to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides.
3f Jim Densham thought that any development of the VI should be linked to the development of the National Pesticides Strategy. Whilst Andy Croxford felt that the VI had not been successful in involving those using pesticides in both the livestock and amenity sectors.
3g The Chair summed up the thoughts of members at the meeting as generally supporting the extension of the Voluntary Initiative beyond April 2006. He agreed that the VI Steering Group and the Forum Indicators Group could usefully work together to develop indicators to measure the effectiveness of any new scheme. He agreed to write to the Chairman of the Steering Group, Professor Barry Dent, offering support to the extension of the VI and recommending greater Government co-operation in any new venture.
4a Clare Butler Ellis and Tom Bals gave a presentation on the development of application technology. Clare believed that this technology was not being taken seriously enough. Indeed, the Forum had reported on this subject five years ago and yet little had been achieved since then. More importantly, drift models need to be created in this country reflecting our climate and soils rather than the German models which were presently being used and which were developed in the mid 1980’s.
4b Clare explained that there were many opportunities for pesticide application technology to contribute to improvements in the sustainability of pest management. The technology is a critical component in allowing farmers and growers to optimise their dose rates. It could also give significant improvements in reducing off-target contamination through better control of the spray drift. She also believed that the role of application technology in reducing the risk of pesticide residues in food had not been fully recognised. Lastly, Clare thought that further advances in the way pesticides are handled (for example closed transfer and direct injection systems) could further reduce the risk of point-source environmental and operator contamination.
4c Clare summed up her talk by saying that:
- More research into application technology was crucial; how it is funded and carried out, and by whom, was also important. Resources are needed to ensure that the Nozzle Classification Scheme remains effective.
- Application technology should play a greater part in the regulatory process and in the National Pesticides Strategy.
- Crop protection companies should improve farmer and grower understanding of how application influences product performance and that they should work with equipment manufacturers on further technological developments.
4d Keith Dawson and David Coggon supported the view that more research was needed in the UK, although David felt that there should be greater encouragement to farmers and growers to use this technology and that stemmed from identifying greater economic benefits and ensuring these benefits are publicised widely. He added that regulation in this field was difficult given the variety of doses, nozzles and equipment available to users.
4e David Coggon also defended the use of the German ‘Ganzelmeier’ models used in approving products, on the basis that this was only the first of two stages assessing the efficacy of products and that it provided assessors with a worst case situation against which to assess the product.
4f Tom Bals believed that there was a need to encourage development of dose optimisation data to reflect what was being done on the farm. He thought that this was best achieved as part of a post-approvals process. Indeed, he thought that regulation could inhibit development in this area. Keith Dawson said that adjuvants had an important role in ensuring the optimum use of pesticides. Recent research shows that the efficacy of products can be increased significantly with the use of the correct adjuvant.
4g Peter Hall felt that more government research was needed on application technology in general to ensure that best practices are developed for farmers and growers. Robert Campbell said that the agricultural industry was already working with a fleet of sprayers and that any regulation needed to reflect this point. Jacqui Salfield added that public perception of pesticides was poor and that anything that improves the way in which pesticides are applied should be supported. However she believed that regulation needed to extend beyond the pesticide to the equipment that is used.
4h James Clarke believed that the most critical factor was probably the timing of the spray operation. He also thought that whatever offered the biggest improvements or the greatest economic benefits in the area of spray technology also had the potential to impact most on biodiversity. Lastly, James thought that the Voluntary Initiative and the National Pesticides Strategy had a role in setting new standards for sprayers and application technology. There was agreement from Anne Buckenham about the need to consider spray technology within the VI.
4i In summing up the Chair said that there was clear agreement about the importance of continuing to develop spray technology and he offered to write to (TAG) in support of their aim of continued Governmental support into application technology research and development. He also agreed to write to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to encourage the Council to be as helpful as possible by allowing access of TAG staff to the facilities and equipment at Silsoe.
Any Other Business
5a There was general agreement for the need to discuss the issue of adjuvants. It was also agreed that PSD should present a paper to the next meeting about how adjuvants are regulated and the environmental impacts resulting from the use of adjuvants.
National Pesticides Strategy (NPS)
5b Adrian Dixon explained that the European Commission’s Thematic Strategy for Pesticides had to be agreed by the 2nd quarter of 2006. The current National Pesticides Strategy public consultation closed on 30 June 2005. Over 100 responses were received, many after the published deadline. However, PSD had agreed to analyse all the responses and intend to produce a report summarising the conclusions by the end of the year. The development of action plans will take place in the New Year.
Action: Adrian Dixon
Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution on 'Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders'
5c The Chair introduced this item by referring to the publication of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) Report on 22 September (pdf 1.38Mb 184 pages). Andy Croxford said that the Environment Agency had commented to the RCEP on the issue of buffer zones to protect residents and bystanders and the need for these to be consistent with existing zones protecting water and hedgerows. The Chair agreed that the Forum needed to make known its views on the report and Jim Densham, Clare Butler Ellis, Tom Bals and Helen Bower all agreed to help to compile a draft response.
Action: Group members and Secretariat
Proposal for updating the Cereal Field Marin Indicator (PF148)
5d Jim Densham explained that as part of his work with other groups he had become aware of this proposed change to the Defra Cereal Field Margin Indicator. It was agreed that Defra should be asked to consider revising the definition for unsprayed land as this could be confusing. There also needed to be clearer definitions of the different states of land.
Action: Jim Densham
Seminar on the Use of Pesticides by Local Authority Contractors
6a Jill Hewitt, the Chief Executive of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) opened the seminar by explaining that the NAAC was formed in 1893 to represent land-based contractors. To put into context the issue, Jill explained that within the amenity sector there were over 3,000 ‘career’ spray operators plus 2,000 short-term (1-3 years) operators working for local authorities. In addition, there were many thousands more ‘professional’ operators maintaining sports grounds and private sites like hard surfaces on retail sites. This is a high profile and public operation in sensitive areas such as schools, houses, roads and sports grounds.
One of the main problems is that tender documents are often prepared and assessed by unqualified staff who lack knowledge of pesticides. Despite a rigorous paperwork tendering process, price will often decide who wins a contract. There is also little effective enforcement of the existing legislation or subsequent contract. These factors result in driving down standards with contractors using unqualified operators; personal protective equipment not being used; specific stewardship programmes not implemented;and pesticides being misused on hard surfaces and getting into drains.
Jill believes that Government commitment is critical in improving standards within the amenity sector. The way forward is to ensure that contract specifiers are suitably qualified to put together a tender and that contractors must be independently audited against a best practice standard. Lastly there must be improved monitoring of work by the local authorities and by Government enforcement agencies.
6b Andy Croxford then briefly outlined which pesticides were getting into watercourses. Of the top nine pesticides getting into water, five had possible local authority uses including: mecoprop, MCPA, diuron, dichlorprop and 2,4-D. Of these substances, diuron was probably used most by local authorities. Although the overall trend for pesticides exceedances was downwards, diuron showed the least change. This picture was further complicated by slight reductions in most regions but increased levels being found in a watercourse in the Midlands. Andy finished his presentation by leaving some questions for the Forum members to consider. The first question was how local authorities would deal with weed control if the use of diuron were to be limited or even banned? He also thought that more research was needed to find out how important the use of the phenoxy group of chemicals was in the amenity sector. Should we be concerned if glyphosate was used to replace products containing diuron? And lastly, how do we get local authorities to recognise the problems and to deal with them?
6c Shaun Faulkner heads the Brent Parks Service and is responsible for grounds maintenance in all their parks and open spaces, facilities management, events and letting, service development, quality and training for his staff. He explained that it is his Council’s policy to have an Environmental Management System (EMS)covering bio-diversity, public concern and awareness, and staff welfare. This results in a this planned approach to a pesticides reduction strategy. This strategy requires his team to produce a documented policy on pesticide usage and a management programme, including an Environmental Impact Assessment, to set out how the reduction in pesticide usage is to be achieved. The council finds it helpful to maintain subscription to Pesticides Action Network (UK) as their newsletters help to identify possible areas to be addressed.
The Parks and Open Spaces team benchmark their activities with other local authorities as a way of ensuring that best practices are adopted. They also undertake some research into alternative methods of control. Finally, they recognise the need to inform and train all their staff to ensure that their strategy is properly implemented. As a result of this strategy, managers will have to be able to explain their reason for using a specific pesticide in a particular location. Shaun believes that local residents, staff, council tax payers and the environment all benefit from this strategy.
6d The final presentation was given by Rob Simpson who explained about the BASIS Registration Ltd. Quality Assurance Auditing Scheme for local authorities. This scheme allows local authorities to assess the effectiveness of their sprayer contractors. Early audits show that many contractors do not understand the principles of good spray operations. Many contractors also rely too heavily upon the use of quad bikes with sprayer attachments to deliver the pesticides on pavements and other hard surfaces. As a result some urban areas not accessible to quad bikes were left for weeds to grow. And even where these bikes were used, care was not being taken not to overspray planted areas such as grass verges.
Professor Ed Gallagher – Forum Chair
John Allbutt - Amenity Forum
Tom Bals – Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA)
Mrs Helen Bower – Women’s Farming Union (WFU)
Dr Anne Buckenham – Crop Protection Association (CPA)
Dr Clare Butler-Ellis – Pesticides Action Network UK (PAN UK)
Mr Robert Campbell – Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF)
James Clarke – ADAS
Professor David Coggon – Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP)
Dr Andy Croxford – Environment Agency (EA)
Hugh Van Cutsem – Country Landowners and Business Association (CLA)
Dr Keith Dawson - Scottish Agricultural College (SAC)
Jim Densham – Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL)
Shaun Faulkner – Brent Council
James Grant – NFU Scotland
Peter Hall – Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS)
Julian Hasler – National Farmers Union (NFU)
Jill Hewitt - National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC)
Alistair Leake - Game Conservancy Trust (GCT)
Dr Peter Pitkin - Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
Mrs Jacquie Salfield – Foodaware
Rob Simpson – BASIS Registration Ltd.
Adrian Dixon – Pesticide Safety Directorate
Angela Rabess – Department of Trade & Industry (DTI)
Stuart Smith – Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Grant Stark – Pesticides Safety Directorate
David Thomas - Welsh Assembly Government
Nigel Chadwick – Pesticides Forum Secretariat
Nicola Parry - Pesticides Forum Secretariat
Phil Shepherdson - Pesticides Forum Secretariat