Campaign to regulate pesticides

photo by Billy Ridgers

January 12 2010 ~ Georgina Downs will take her pesticide case to Europe

July 7 2009 ~ Georgina Downs pesticides appeal lost

November 14 2008 ~ Mr Justice Collins rules on 'defects' in DEFRA's approach to pesticide safety

October 13 2008 ~ Woman of the Year award for Georgina Downs

February 2007 ~ "Ms. Downs' presentations led to considerable political activity

December 2006 ~ -UK Pesticides Campaign

July 24 2006 ~ The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) report on the risks to people from crop-spraying, was published in September last year. It found that crop-spraying is a potential health risk. Chronic illnesses and diseases reported by people in rural areas, including cancer, Parkinson's and ME, could be associated with pesticide exposure, it concluded. The report made several important recommendations.
These have been ignored by the Government.
If implemented, an unprecedented and urgently needed overhaul - affecting all the Government agencies and departments currently responsible for pesticides - would take place.
See Georgina Downs' latest press release

June 26 2006 ~ Pesticides ".. yet another study finds pesticides associated with Parkinson's disease."

Georgina Downs' press release

March 23 2006 ~ Congratulations to Georgina Downs

February 6th 2006 ~ Key Government Advisors (the ACP) Criticised Over Pesticides emerges that the ACP's current approach could be unlawful

September 22 2005 ~ RCEP report published today - "cause for concern"

July 27 2005 ~ Georgina Downs' Judicial Review - US report today shows evidence of health risks linked to exposure to pesticides

May 26 2005 ~ Following the study at University of Aberdeen (see New Scientist) linking pesticides to Parkinsons

April 3 - 10 April 2005 ~ "Health issues are hardly considered at all within the existing scope of the VI"

21 March - 28 March 2005 ~

28 February 2005 ~Georgina Downs points out today that the Government's response to Sudan 1 is contradictory. "The Food Standards Agency has stated that the withdrawal of products containing the substance Sudan 1 is a "precautionary measure" and stated that "the risk is likely to be very small, but it is sensible to avoid eating any more" Yet despite substantive evidence of the risks to people in the countryside from crop-spraying, the Government has not taken any action at all to prevent exposure, despite continued reports of cases of cancer, as well as other serious illnesses and diseases, in rural communities all over the UK." ( Ms. Downs says that she attended a conference organised by the FSA in 2002 on the effects of pesticide mixtures, held at a 4 star hotel in Norfolk. "I wondered at the time why they had chosen such a venue as it was not easily accessible for members of the public either cost wise or geographically and I noted the considerable number of FSA staff staying overnight at the hotel. When I saw that they were attending a formal dinner in one of the dining rooms, I remember thinking to myself, who is paying for all of this?..."

January 13 2005 ~ Government Advisory Committee has admitted a possible link with pesticide exposure.

December 18 2004 ~ "Many people just did not know at the time who they were supposed to report it to.

September 7 2004 ~ "compounds used as pesticides, such as DDT and other organochlorine compounds, readily crossed the placenta"

Aug 15 2004 ~ The Observer: "Pollutants cause huge rise in brain diseases"

"The numbers of sufferers of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, have soared across the West in less than 20 years, scientists have discovered. The alarming rise, which includes figures showing rates of dementia have trebled in men, has been linked to rises in levels of pesticides, industrial effluents, domestic waste, car exhausts and other pollutants, says a report in the journal Public Health. In the late 1970s, there were around 3,000 deaths a year from these conditions in England and Wales. By the late 1990s, there were 10,000. 'This has really scared me,' said Professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University, one of the report's authors. 'These are nasty diseases: people are getting more of them and they are starting earlier. We have to look at the environment and ask ourselves what we are doing.' ..." read in full

Aug 4 2004 ~ The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has now launched its public consultation into bystander pesticide exposure

FWi reports, "..The RCEP announced in June that it is to undertake a special study on pesticides and bystander exposure. The study will examine the scientific evidence on which DEFRA based its decision on such exposure earlier this year and its policy on access to information on crop spraying. As part of this investigation, commissioned by DEFRA, the RCEP is now calling for evidence and information from interested parties....The RCEP is planning to hold a public meeting on September 25 in London."
An earlier FWi article reported that " NFU deputy president Peter Kendall said he was confident the Royal Commission study would vindicate the scientific evidence that pesticides pose very little health risk to bystanders."

Aug 1 - Aug 7 ~ Howard Dalton, DEFRA's Chief Scientific Advisor, was unaware of pesticide evidence before giving his "advice"

because DEFRA did not show it to him. Georgina Downs' painstakingly put together submission to the Government - legal and scientifically based - highlighting the inadequacies of the current regulatory and monitoring systems, was not sent to Mr Dalton. He wasn't even aware that this material existed. DEFRA's scientific advisor may not even have seen the Ontario College of Family Physicians review which found consistent evidence linking pesticide exposure to brain, kidney, prostrate and pancreatic cancer as well as leukaemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, neurological damage, Parkinson's disease and other serious illnesses and diseases. The Summary of Remarks by Pesticide Research Team from their conference in April this year are stark enough to make the UK refusal to consider pesticide buffer zones seem very strange indeed. Alun Michael said in June: However, one of the remarks from the April conference above: "Given that such a large proportion of society is vulnerable to harmful effects, action to reduce public exposure is justified, and needed." (See also press release from Georgina Downs)

August 4 2004 ~ Ms.Downs is demanding to know why DEFRA did not pass on this information to their Chief Scientific Advisor..

".......Ms. Downs who was the first to identify serious fundamental flaws regarding the bystander risk assessment over 3 years ago, had recently submitted a legal and scientifically based submission to the Government highlighting the inadequacies of the current regulatory and monitoring systems for pesticides. She also produced a "hard-hitting" video of individuals and families from all over the country reporting seemingly disproportionate amounts of illness and disease in rural communities surrounded by sprayed fields. A number of those featured on the video have actually been officially diagnosed and confirmed by the Government as suffering from pesticide related ill-health.
Ms. Downs recently spoke to the Chief Scientific Advisor, Howard Dalton, to ask if he had seen this material. He stated that he had not seen it, that DEFRA had not sent anything on to him and that he wasn't even aware that this material existed. Ms.Downs is demanding to know why DEFRA did not pass on this information to their Chief Scientific Advisor..." Read press release in full

Aug 4 2004 ~ Link to the Ontario College of Family Physicians Review

June 30 2004 ~ GM pesticide "secrets" to go public as Bayer drops court case

FoE press release ".... Bayer CropScience, the multi-national agro-chemical and biotech corporation, has dropped its court action against Friends of the Earth. It had tried to prevent the environmental group from telling the public how to access safety data on pesticides - including a flagship weedkiller for use on GM herbicide tolerant crops in the UK, Glufosinate Ammonium."

June 20 2004 Sunday Telegraph - Booker's Notebook

"....The trouble is that ministers cannot afford to admit that pesticides can endanger public health. These products have been licensed by the Government as safe to use. Any admission that the system is faulty might expose it to huge compensation claims. Last Wednesday, therefore, Alun Michael, the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environment Quality, telephoned Miss Downs to tell her that his ruling on the consultation was about to be released. Later that morning it was handed out to journalists.
Couched in the customary weasel words, it said that Mr Michael wished to announce "a number of measures designed to provide additional reassurance about the pesticide regulatory process". There would be further studies. A "pilot study" would look into the possibility of notifying the public about when poisonous chemicals are about to be sprayed over them. But policy would not change.
In other words, entirely predictably, the "consultation" was a farce. The Government was not remotely interested in looking at the evidence. It had only staged this charade to keep Miss Downs quiet. As can be seen on her website,, the evidence of dangers in the spraying of agricultural chemicals is indisputable. She now plans legal action in a final bid to force the Government to act."

Press Release June 2004

"...campaigner has responded to the Government's announcement that there is no scientific justification for the introduction of no-spray zones around residential areas by leading a legal challenge against the Government on behalf of all those living near fields that are regularly sprayed with "cocktails" of poisonous chemicals. .."

Press Release April 2004

...Pesticides Campaigner says that the Government has to take action over pesticides, as new comprehensive pesticides review from Canada confirms dangers

Toxic Politics

... on either the Consultation, or any aspect of my campaign or just to share your experiences then please feel free to contact Georgina Downs anytime on 01243 ...


... Georgina Downs has conducted a determined campaign to change Government Policy that has at last forced this matter into the public arena. ...

inbox new

... Sept 22 ~ Georgina Downs' campaign to get the government to tighten up the regulation of pesticides was covered in the Observer. ...

Sunday Telegraph March 23 2003

... Next Wednesday BBC1's The Food Police will feature Georgina Downs, a young singer who, as I reported last July, has fought a fearless campaign ...unless Brussels agrees, that there will be nothing British ministers can do about it.

Sunday Telegraph May 4

... Georgina Downs, a singer who has suffered permanent health damage from crop spraying of fields next to her family's home in Sussex, has established that ...

Other warmwell Links - which open in a new window

Related Articles

See Georgina Downs' own website

A Perfectly Legal Poisoning - Sunday Telegraph 23/3/03

Georgina's Fight Against Toxic Peril - The Observer 13/4/03

Suffering and Tragedy in a Kent Village - The Observer 13/4/03

Can We Have a Breath of Fresh Air? - The Observer 13/4/03

It's Safer in a Hive - Sunday Telegraph 4/5/03

Campaigner Steps up Pesticide Fight - The Argus 23/7/03

Whitewash for Crop Sprays - Sunday Telegraph 31/8/03

Families' Lives Poisoned by Crop-spraying - The Observer 2/5/04

Other Related Media

Illness Blamed on Crop-spraying - BBC News 16/4/03

Too Close for Comfort - BBC Breakfast News 5/8/03

Crop-spraying - BBC Radio 4 You and Yours 1/9/03

Crop-spraying - BBC Radio 4 You and Yours 6/11/03


Inspirational Voice - FOE Earthalert PDF Pages 12-15 - Summer 2003

Contact: Georgina Downs

Tel: 01243 773846



Disagreements amongst members of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides over the safety of pesticides continues with the publication of Minority Statement

A comprehensive pesticides literature review published in April 2004 by the Ontario College of Family Physicians has yet again highlighted disagreements amongst members of the Government's Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) over the safety of pesticides, as a Minority Statement of the ACP's official response is published.

The Ontario College of Family Physicians had found consistent evidence linking pesticide exposure to brain, kidney, prostate and pancreatic cancer, as well as leukaemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, neurological damage, Parkinson's disease and other serious illnesses and diseases. The review had found that children were particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure and recommended that people avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever and wherever possible.

Pesticides Campaigner Georgina Downs alerted the Government's Advisory Committee on Pesticides, as well as the Minister for Rural Affairs, Alun Michael, of the publication of the Ontario review as soon as it was released and urged that in light of the authors' conclusions immediate action should be taken.

The Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) first considered the report at its meeting in May 2004 where the Chairman and epidemiologist on the Committee, Professor David Coggon, presented his highly critical assessment of the review. Professor Coggon then proposed that, in case his views were unrepresentative of wider scientific thinking, opinions should be sought also from a number of other independent epidemiologists. Accordingly, comments were requested from five epidemiological experts who were current or recent members of other Government advisory committees.

The ACP then reconsidered the Ontario report at its September 2004 meeting, along with the feedback from the invited experts. A subsequent statement formulated by the ACP was supposed to summarise the conclusions of the ACP's discussions to date. The statement concluded that "Overall, the ACP has concluded that the report does not raise any new concerns about pesticide safety that were not already being addressed and does not indicate any need for additional regulatory action in the UK."

However, former ACP member, Christopher Stopes, who was a member of the ACP until December 31st 2004 was of the opinion that the statement did not express the range of views on the Committee, nor did it properly reflect the comments from the other epidemiologists consulted.

He advised against publication of the ACP statement until the authors had exercised their right to reply, but following media coverage of the report, generated by Ms. Downs' campaign, some members felt that it was important for a statement to be made as soon as possible.

Mr. Stopes tabled a draft "Minority Statement" of the ACP's original statement on the Ontario literature review at the ACP meeting on 18th November 2004. He states "The approach adopted by the ACP since the beginning of 2004 in relation to the "Ontario study" gave me cause for concern. I had already, during previous meetings in 2004 and in direct communication with all members recorded my dissatisfaction with how this important issue was being dealt with by the ACP. There is a range of views on the conclusions of the Report and I do not agree with the statement issued by the ACP. I consider that there is much to commend in the Report, which alerts us to possible risks to health and in my view they have not been given adequate consideration."

Mr. Stopes also states that "The regular repeated assertion that there is "no cause for additional regulatory action" is not convincing and is also dishonest. In the face of uncertainty, it would be better to provide more relevant advice on appropriate additional regulatory action in the UK, rather than continue to be in denial."

Mr. Stopes stated that he believed that there should be a retraction of the unbalanced ("robust") criticism of the Ontario study from the ACP Chairman that is currently on the ACP website.

Following the comments by Mr. Stopes, as well as the concerns of 3 other members, it was agreed at the ACP meeting on 13th January 2005 that an additional paragraph should be added to the ACP's earlier original statement on the Ontario pesticides literature review. The additional paragraph included the statement that "The above comments on the Ontario review and its implications for risk assessment and regulation of pesticides in the UK in no way detract from the unanimous view of the ACP that unnecessary exposures to pesticides should always be avoided."

However, as Mr. Stopes' membership of the Committee finished on 31st December 2004 he was not in attendance at the January meeting and was therefore not party to the discussion. On hearing of the agreed supplementary paragraph Mr. Stopes maintained the view that it would be wrong to deny the opportunity for minority views to be put forward and therefore continued to request that his Minority view be published on the ACP website.

Georgina Downs points out that this is not the first time that members of the ACP have disagreed over the safety of pesticides and the possible impacts they may be having on human health. In January last year she asked all ACP members if they agreed with the continued claims made by DEFRA that there is no risk to people in the countryside from crop-spraying and that pesticides are safe.

In his response ACP member Dr. Charles Clutterbuck stated "Following recent investigations I am more convinced that there is no "evidence" of safety. As is often said, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I believe that the science is only predictive and not proof. Increasingly the decisions about "acceptable risk" are made by people further and further away from the exposure to that risk."

In his response to Ms. Downs, another ACP member, Dr. Vyvyan Howard stated "The Florida Supreme Court has recently ruled in the case of Castillo vs DuPont. As an expert witness in that case, which was a bystander event, I have to say that I am not convinced by the argument that pesticides are safeThere are a number of toxicological questions that, in my opinion, remain open with respect to bystander/neighbour risk from spraying. What is the effect of repeated exposure over a period of months or years?..Another area where I remain to be convinced about the adequacy of the current approach is the interaction of components of a mixture of pesticides in a tank. As you know our research group has found some unexpected synergistic interactions between pesticides, which are usually only assumed to have additive effectsAll these areas of uncertainty need to be further addressed, in my opinion."

Georgina Downs' campaign ( highlights the serious fundamental flaws throughout the existing regulations and monitoring system for pesticides, particularly in relation to people living in agricultural areas. Ms. Downs states "There are inherent uncertainties and serious data gaps surrounding human exposure to pesticides and the link with acute and chronic disease and even members of the Government's own Advisory Committee on Pesticides continue to disagree over the current regulatory approach regarding the safety of pesticides."

Ms. Downs has just published on her website a presentation outlining the failings of the Government's pesticides policy in protecting public health entitled "Pesticide Exposures  UK and International Policy Failings." She currently has an application in the High Court to Judicially Review the decision by DEFRA Ministers' regarding crop-spraying. In addition the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution are currently carrying out a study on the risks to people from crop-spraying and examining the scientific evidence on which DEFRA has based its decision on bystander exposure. Their report is due to be published in June 2005.

Ms Downs continues to receive reports of clusters of illnesses and diseases in rural communities not only in the UK, but from all over the world. The most common illnesses reported include various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer and breast cancer, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, leukaemia, neurological problems including Parkinson's disease, along with many other medical conditions. The Ontario pesticides literature review found consistent evidence linking many of these conditions with exposure to pesticides.

Ms. Downs states "Substantive evidence already exists to demonstrate a serious public health problem and therefore the significance of these consequences requires the adoption of a preventative approach. Exposure cannot be allowed to continue unabated and therefore the only responsible course of action for the Government to take is an immediate ban on crop-spraying near homes, schools, workplaces and any other places of human habitation. The only overall solution is through the widespread adoption of sustainable non-chemical and natural methods to protect not only public health, but also the wider environment for now and for future generations."

Notes to Editors:

  • Christopher Stopes is an organic food and farming and pesticide policy consultant and was a member of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides for 5 years, until 31st December 2004. His Minority Statement can be found at: Christopher Stopes is available for further quotes and/or interviews  contact details via Georgina Downs, see below

  • The presentation entitled "Pesticide Exposures - UK and International Policy Failings," given by Georgina Downs at the conference "Science, Medicine and the Law," on 1st February 2005 and the Green Party conference on 3rd March 2005 can be found at:-

  • A piece written by Ms. Downs entitled "Pesticide Exposures for People in Agricultural Areas," appears in the current Spring 2005 edition of "Science in Parliament," the Journal of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee

  • On September 16th 2004 Ms. Downs put in an application to the High Court to Judicially Review Alun Michael's decision not to introduce no-spray zones around agricultural land to protect rural residents from the use of pesticides by farmers

  • Further information on the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) study into the risks to people from crop-spraying can be found at:

  • Georgina Downs campaigns to highlight the effects of pesticide use in rural Britain and has lived next to regularly sprayed fields for 20 years. She was the first to identify serious fundamental flaws regarding the bystander risk assessment and for the last 4 years has presented a case to the Government for a change in the regulations and legislation governing agricultural spraying. She has also 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 living in rural areas. 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 access for the public to all the necessary chemical information

  • Ms. Downs' campaign has been supported by Samuel Epstein, Professor Emeritus Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. He is the author of "Stop Cancer Before it Starts," and is known a leading international authority on cancer-causing effects of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals (see ); Michael Meacher MP, (Former DEFRA Minister for the Environment and one of the Minister's Ms. Downs originally presented the case to); Norman Baker MP, the Liberal Democrat's front bench environment spokesman; Caroline Lucas MEP and the Soil Association amongst others

Contact: Georgina Downs

Telephone: 01243 773846

Mobile: 07906 898 915



Campaign: "A Breath of Fresh Air?"