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The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Critics say it's all a marketing ploy"
 real 56k

Co'op's Wendy Wrigley
and the Crop Protection Association's Richard Trow-Smith
 real 28k

Monday, 2 July, 2001, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Co-op bans 20 pesticides from food
Apples
Consumers are worried about pesticides in food
The Co-op supermarket chain is banning the use of more than 20 common pesticides used in food production.

The company said it had bowed to consumer pressure after a survey it commissioned found that more than 70% of 1,000 people interviewed were worried about the use of pesticides.

The chemicals include "hormone disrupters" and organophosphates from the nerve gas family.

The decision comes at a time of growing consumer concern about the impact of chemical residues on human health and the environment.


There are serious gaps in our knowledge about the long-term effects of pesticides on human health

Wendy Wrigley, Co-operative Group

The Co-op is also restricting the use of about 30 other pesticides.

The supermarket chain said the list of banned substances had already been passed to its suppliers and that all items of fresh produce would be affected by the move.

It is also looking at extending the ban to cover all products which go into making more than 3,500 of its own-brand foods.

The Co-op pledged its support for British organic farmers who have to struggle against foreign competitors.

British farmers are "badly losing out" to their European counterparts, whose governments pay subsidies to give them the edge, the chain said.

Three-quarters of organic products sold in Britain are currently imported and the Co-op is supporting the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill, which proposes that 30% of the UK agricultural land should be used for organic production by 2010.

Health concerns

Wendy Wrigley, general manager of retail brands for the Co-operative Group said: "There are serious gaps in our knowledge about the long-term effects of pesticides on human health and we believe there are flaws in the approval and policing process which urgently need to be addressed.

"For that reason, government policy should in future be based around the precautionary principle which puts public health as the overriding policy.

"The government admits there is uncertainty about a large number of chemicals currently legally used to produce food sold in this country and many are under review."

Supermarket shopper
The Co-op move follows a survey of shoppers
"Now the government, which has accepted the need to block some chemicals, needs to go much further."

Friends of the Earth welcomed the Co-op's lead and urged other retailers to follow its example.

The environmental group's real food campaigner, Sandra Bell, said: "Consumers have made it clear that they want pesticide-free food.

"Now other retailers should follow the Co-op's lead.

"The government must also take notice. It is vital that it takes farming down a more sustainable path.

"This must include clear targets and action for increasing organic farming and reducing pesticide use."

But the Crop Protection Association's Richard Trow-Smith said UK food was perhaps the safest in the world.

"I think the Co-op's action today has done a disservice to the whole UK food chain, including farmers and growers who have pulled out all the stops to make sure the food on our tables is as free from residues as possible," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Trow-Smith said the pesticide process was too complex to be included in food labelling.

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