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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Head to head: Farm pesticide risks
Tractor spraying crop
A report has called for no-spray zones between fields and homes
As a report calls for more protection for the public from the potential dangers of farm pesticides, the BBC News website hears opposing views on the issue.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report recommended more research into a possible link between pesticides and ill health.

But the Crop Protection Association, which represents UK manufacturers of pesticides, believes crop sprays are safe when used properly.

The Soil Association, representing organic farmers and food companies, backs the report and says risks should be reduced if there is uncertainty over safety.

DR JULIAN LITTLE, CROP PROTECTION ASSOCIATION

This is not a situation where nobody has ever looked at the safety of pesticides - there is a vast amount of safety information out there and more research is always going on.

All the science suggests at the moment that there is no risk when pesticides are applied properly.

The UK has got the strongest regulation system probably anywhere in the world.

Our first concern is the safety of everybody that comes into contact with pesticides

There is a huge raft of statutory regulations, with farmers going a lot further through codes of practice and voluntary initiatives, that control these processes.

There is an enormous and clear intention to make sure that pesticides are used properly.

There are some people who feel that illnesses are in some way connected to the applying of pesticides - from an industry point of view our first concern is the safety of everybody that comes into contact with pesticides.

Science evolves, so regulations will evolve with it and industry will respond to that.

Of course in some cases that will have an impact on the viability of farming, but if science says we need further regulation then we just have to abide by that.

If we want that high quality food that is readily available and affordable, we have to recognise the benefits that pesticides bring.

LORD PETER MELCHETT, SOIL ASSOCIATION

There is a huge amount of uncertainty and unknown risk involved in pesticides.

The royal commission were asked to look particularly at the question of what happens to people who live in houses next to fields which are sprayed.

They said those fields could be sprayed up to 13 times in a year, year after year after year.

Lord Peter Melchett
None of these uncertainties and risks have been admitted by the chemical industry or the government
Up until now government advisers, scientists on the government's committees and government ministers have said this is absolutely safe.

But the fact of the matter is there are uncertainties - pesticides do spread a long way. Even small amounts can affect human health.

There is evidence that children, babies, elderly people are particularly vulnerable to pesticides - that is more or less accepted science. America, Canada and Holland all do more to put extra protection for children in place.

None of these uncertainties and risks have been admitted by the chemical industry, or by the government and their advisers.

What the royal commission wants to do, and we agree with this, is try and reduce the risk, be more open with the public about the risk, and give people more information.

I think that it will be impossible for the government to ignore this.



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