July 24 2006
Leading Pesticides Campaigner gives damning verdict of Government report on the health risks of pesticides
The woman who took on the Government over the lack of any protection for people in the countryside from pesticides has given a damning verdict to the publication of the Governments response to last years report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) entitled Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders.
The Royal Commissions report published in September 2005 had concluded that crop-spraying is a potential health risk and that chronic illnesses and diseases reported by people in rural areas, including cancer, Parkinsons and ME, could be associated with pesticide exposure.
The RCEPs report concluded that the level of confidence and assurance of pesticide safety previously given by the Government was not founded in the scientific evidence and identified grounds for concern in respect of all the areas addressed, including health, exposure and risk.
The RCEP concluded that a more precautionary approach to regulating the use of pesticides is needed. If implemented, the RCEPs recommendations would have resulted in an unprecedented overhaul affecting all the Government agencies and departments currently responsible for pesticides.
However, the Government response to the RCEP report, published today, has rejected many of the RCEPs criticisms of the inadequacy of the existing policy and has yet again refused to acknowledge the health risks of pesticides and plays down the link with chronic ill-health conditions reported in rural areas.
The press notice accompanying the Government report produced by DEFRA states, The scientific advice received is clear that there is insufficient evidence to support the Royal Commissions recommendations for additional regulatory measures on safety grounds. Introducing regulations for other reasons such as perceived nuisance from spraying would be incompatible with the Governments Better Regulation policy. Government has therefore decided against introducing any new regulations at this time.
The press notice goes on to state, Existing voluntary schemes such as Farm Assurance and the Voluntary Initiative have demonstrated how effective non-statutory approaches can be in changing behaviour. I want to see schemes such as these playing a crucial role in ensuring that both farmers and the public can have a greater mutual understanding of the problems they each face. These schemes have the potential to provide farmers both with the practical support and the incentive to be good neighbours in this regard and I will be discussing with these organisations and others how this might be achieved.
The RCEP had been asked to examine the scientific evidence on which DEFRA had based its decision on the risks to people from crop-spraying, following a determined and relentless five year campaign by Georgina Downs of UK Pesticides Campaign, (www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk), the leading campaign highlighting the effects of pesticides on people in rural areas (commonly referred as residents and bystanders).Ms. Downs was the first to identify serious fundamental flaws in the Governments bystander risk assessment, in early 2001 and started presenting a case to the Government for an overhaul of the regulations and legislation governing agricultural spraying. This included the presentation of a video featuring people from all over the country reporting cases of cancers, leukaemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, neurological problems, including Parkinsons disease and ME, amongst many other illnesses, in rural communities surrounded by sprayed fields. Ms. Downs has been calling for an immediate ban on crop-spraying and the use of pesticides near to peoples homes, schools, workplaces and any other places of human habitation and for direct public access to the information on the chemicals sprayed on crops.Ms. Downs states, This response is an absolute disgrace as it does not actually realistically change anything. The Government have refused to acknowledge the health risks inherent in the spraying of agricultural chemicals and have decided not to introduce any legal measures to protect rural residents and communities. This shows absolute contempt for people who live, work, go to school or just spend considerable time in the countryside. Voluntary and self-regulatory measures have existed for decades, have not worked and are completely unacceptable in this situation. Therefore the introduction of statutory measures is essential.
Ms. Downs continues, The Government has failed to protect people in the countryside from pesticides. There has never been an adequate risk assessment for residents, yet pesticides are not supposed to be approved for use until risk assessments have been undertaken to provide evidence that there will not be a health risk. Action needs to be taken to protect the public, not more research, consultations or inquiries. To continue not to act and protect rural communities from pesticides in light of the evidence that exists has now put the Government in an increasingly untenable position and could have massive legal and political implications. Successive Governments have continued to deny the evidence in favour of protecting industry interests over and above protecting public health.
Ms. Downs adds, Enough evidence already exists to demonstrate that pesticide spraying poses a serious public health problem. Many of the conditions that are reported in rural areas including cancer and leukaemia are devastating diseases that are on the increase, especially in children and even though there could be a number of different causes for any chronic illness or disease, all the causes must be identified in an attempt to try and prevent them from occurring. The only way to protect public health and prevent any illnesses that could be associated with pesticides, both now and for future generations, is to avoid exposure altogether through the widespread adoption of truly sustainable non-chemical and natural methods, as an alternative to chemical pest control. This would obviously be more in line with the Governments commitment to sustainable development, sustainable food and farming and sustainable communities, as the reliance on toxic chemicals designed to kill plants, insects or other forms of life cannot be classified as sustainable.
Ms. Downs already has a Judicial Review application in the High Court challenging the Government for failing to protect people in the countryside from pesticides.Notes to Editors:-7 The Governments response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollutions report can be found at:- www.defra.gov.uk
7 The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollutions report entitled Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders is available at:- http://www.rcep.org.uk/cropspraying.htm
7 Georgina Downs runs the UK Pesticides Campaign to highlight the adverse health and environmental effects of pesticides. It is the only campaign that solely represents the interests of rural residents and communities and the public in general. Ms. Downs has lived next to regularly sprayed fields for 22 years and has long-standing health problems. She was the first to identify serious fundamental flaws regarding the bystander risk assessment and for the last 5 years has presented a case to the Government for a change in the regulations and legislation governing crop spraying. She has called for an immediate ban on crop-spraying and the use of pesticides near to people's homes, schools, workplaces and any other places of human habitation and for direct public access to the information on the chemicals sprayed on crops. Ms. Downs has produced 2 videos "Pesticide Exposures for People in Agricultural Areas Part 1 Pesticides in the Air; Part 2 The Hidden Costs" to illustrate chemical exposure and the effects on people in rural areas
7 Ms. Downs has a database of approximately 900 people, compiled since early 2001. The acute ill-health effects that are commonly reported to Ms. Downs by people in agricultural areas include sore throats, burning eyes, nose, skin, blisters, headaches, dizziness, nausea, flu-type illnesses, amongst other things. The most common chronic long-term illnesses and diseases reported include clusters of various cancers, leukaemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, neurological conditions, including Parkinsons disease and ME, asthma, allergies, along with many other medical conditions. (NB. Under the existing regulatory system there is no monitoring or collection of data on chronic effects, so the full extent of ill-health related to pesticides is currently not known)
Downswon the prestigious Andrew Lees Memorial Award at the 2006 British Environment and Media Awards (BEMAs), on Wednesday 22nd March 2006 www.bemas.org.uk7 Ms. Downs was also a nominee for Campaigner of the Year in the Observer Ethical Awards 2006. For further information see:- http://observer.guardian.co.uk/competitions/page/0,,-724,00.html7 Ms. Downs was recently listed in the Farmers Weekly Top 20 Power Players in UK Farming, following the impact of her campaign. Others included in the list were Gordon Brown, Margaret Beckett, Peter Mandelson, Prince Charles, Jacques Chirac and Jamie Oliver. Full list at:- http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2006/01/19/92020/Power+Players.htmlContact: GeorginaDowns Pesticides Campaign UKTelephone: 01243 773846 : 07906 898 915 MobileEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk
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