Pesticides News The journal of Pesticide Action Network UK An international perspective on the health and environmental effects of pesticides
No.100 May 2015
A farmer with a hand operated sprayer (West Bengal). Often paraquat and other pesticides are applied with this kind of sprayer. Photo: Dileep Kumar, PAN India
In this edition •
The shocking reality of paraquat use in India
PAN UK for Pesticide-Free towns and cities in the UK
Field level studies show neonioctinoids harm bees
Justice in sight for organophosphate sufferers?
No.100 May 2015
The shocking reality of paraquat use in India A recent report Conditions of paraquat use in India published jointly by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP), PAN India, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF), and the Berne Declaration, paints a shocking picture of the reality of the use of paraquat in India. This highly hazardous herbicide is already banned in many countries around the world, but, it is still one of the world's most widely used herbicides, especially in developing countries, where its use leads to the poisoning of countless workers and farmers. Jayakumar Chelaton of PAN India outlines the reports findings.
Paraquat dichloride is a highly hazardous herbicide, and according to the recent report Conditions of paraquat use in India1 both retailers and paraquat users in India are putting themselves at risk of serious detriment to their health as a result of dangerous practices. These include:
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paraquat sold in plastic carrying bags even when it is sold in proper containers, many users can't read the labels contrary to recommended use instructions, users mix it with other ingredients users apply it with leaking knapsack sprayers and use it on crops that the herbicide is not approved for personal protective equipment (PPE) is nearly non-existent
The study was conducted in eight sites across six Indian States (Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal) between December 2014 and March 2015 and obtained evidence of the extend of the information and awareness on the use of paraquat; awareness and use of personnel protective measures; application of paraquat, poisoning and health effects among farmers, farm workers including pesticide applicators, agriculture extension officers and pesticides retailers. The study showed that paraquat dichloride 24% SL is the only formulation registered for use in India, and field study in six states shows that it is sold under 14 www.pan-uk.org
Workers prepare to go to spray pesticides in a tea garden. They have no proper personal protective clothing. Photo: IUF
commercial brand names. Paraquat is one among the 54 herbicides registered for use in India. Data from government sources shows that in 2013-14 (as on December 18, 2014), 5000 metric tonnes of technical grade paraquat dichloride was consumed in India, which includes both indigenous production and imported paraquat.
applying paraquat in the inter rows, furrows and ridges, field bunds and boundaries of standing crops. In addition, extensive use of paraquat is happening in plantation crops like tea, where paraquat is used four to eight rounds in a year.
Farmers and farm workers questioned in the study, reported that It was found that paraquat is being paraquat is more effective than other used on about 25 crops including cash herbicides and burns weeds quickly. crops such as cotton and jute, and Farmers also tend to use herbicides food crops such as cereals, pulses, oil like paraquat because of labour seeds, vegetables, in floriculture and issues, such as lack of skilled horticulture. Paraquat is used for pre- labourers, non-availability of emergent weed control such as prelabourers during critical periods, and sowing or planting application, increased labour costs. Besides, applying 10 to 15 days before spraying is a less labour intensive planting or sowing the crop, as well operation which takes less time. as post emergent weed control – 2
Pesticides News by spraying is, however, the most widely practiced method, and The Central Insecticide Board and farmers usually dilute paraquat and Registration Committee (CIBRC), apply it for both pre- and postthe pesticide regulatory body under emergent weed control. This practice the Department of Agriculture, is reported in cotton, maize, jute, Government of India, has approved mustard, rice, soy bean, tea and the use of paraquat dichloride for wheat and vegetables. Some farmers weed control on only nine crops also reported that they add 2,4-D (a apple, cotton, grapes, maize, potato, herbicide), kerosene, shampoo, salt tea, rice, rubber and wheat. However, and adhesives while mixing paraquat, available data shows that the and farmers reported that these agriculture departments and substances are added in order to agriculture universities in various enhance the efficiency of weed States, as well as the commodity control. This practice is boards, have recommended paraquat recommended by pesticide retailers. for controlling weeds in 17 crops. Farmers and workers reported that This amounts to a violation of the they spray paraquat with a back pack Indian Insecticide Act. Manufactures sprayer, a power sprayer, or a hand also have the same approach. operated sprayer, although most of Syngenta has recommended their them said that the sprayers were paraquat product, gramoxone, for 12 leaking and almost half of the crops, as well as for aquatic weed respondents said that they were control. While Canary Agro unable to repair the leaking sprayer. Chemicals has recommended their product, Kataar, for weed control in Following spraying, it was found 11 crops as well as for aquatic weed that most of the farmers and workers control. This also is violation of continued to work in the field where Indian Insecticide Act and failure to paraquat is being applied, or they follow law of the land. enter the field to work immediately after the spraying, thus increasing Paraquat application in the field their risk of exposure and poisoning. However, in tea plantations, workers The CIBRC data shows that are restricted from entering an area paraquat is approved for application sprayed with paraquat for 24 hours by means of spraying only. after the spray. It is important to note Manufacturers also recommend, by that neither the regulatory authorities way of the instructions given on the like CIBRC or other government product label, use by spraying only. agencies, nor the manufacturers, However, field data shows that provide instructions regarding a reparaquat is actually applied by two entry period while working in different methods, dispersal and paraquat sprayed fields. CIBCR, spraying â€“ meaning that some however, recommends a harvest farmers at least are using paraquat in interval (the time between the last one way that is neither approved or application and harvest) ranging from recommended. 90 days to 180 days in different crops. Application by dispersal was mainly reported from Andhra Information and awareness on Pradesh and Telangana States, where paraquat use farmers mix paraquat with sand, common salt and fertilizers like urea The majority of farmers depend and disperse in the field, mostly for mainly on pesticide retailers and post emergent weed control, on chili, agents of pesticide distributors or cotton, maize and paddy. Application retailers for information and advice
No.100 May 2015
Paraquat bought in plastic carry bag Photo: Dileep Kumar, PAN India
on the use paraquat. Only a couple of farmers have reported that they get information and advice from agriculture offices and neighbouring farmers. The major reason for this is that the retailers and agents have more roots in villages and have greater influence on farming community than the agriculture officers. Instruction on the use of paraquat products are provided in the label on the containers, as well as in instruction leaflets. These tend to be written in a couple of local languages as well as in English and Hindi. But farmers reported that they were unable to read and understand them as the text is very small. One commercial paraquat product found in West Bengal contained instructions only in English and Hindi, although farmers in the areas surveyed were unable to read these languages and therefore unable to understand what was written on the label. Farmers from Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal stated that they are unable to understand and decipher the meaning of colour coding on the product label and consequently remain oblivious about the safety information. Awareness on safety measures and the use of PPE Most of the farmers and workers surveyed said that they know 3
No.100 May 2015
paraquat and other pesticides are harmful and can cause ill-health. The majority of farmers surveyed said that they store paraquat in their houses and household premises, most of them keeping it out of reach of children.
manufacturers, retailers and the government agencies are aware of the PPE recommended in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticides Management and are giving the proper information to the users.
But farmers and workers do not use PPE while handling paraquat. The majority of the respondents said that they do not use any additional protective measures apart from their daily clothing and a couple of them reported that they do not even use footwear while applying paraquat or working in paraquat sprayed fields. Only a couple of farmers and workers stated that they use protective measures (while mixing, spraying and washing sprayers and containers) including: a hat, eye glasses, covering the mouth and nose with a cloth, wearing gloves, using a plastic sheet like an apron, long trousers and shoes. But none of the farmers and workers surveyed used a face mask, respirators, or overalls while mixing or applying paraquat.
More than half of the respondents who participated in the study were unaware about where they could get PPE, while only about a half of them had received any sort of training on use of pesticides and appropriate safety measures, although not specifically on paraquat. Such training was organised by either the agriculture offices or the pesticide retailers. But the majority of farmers and workers had not received any training on the use of PPE. Provision of safety equipment and raising awareness of the importance of using PPE by government authorities such as agriculture departments are not happening at field level. Meanwhile, manufacturers have not specified the PPE that is required when working with paraquat. It does not appear that www.pan-uk.org
The study found that retailers are the major source of information and advice for farmers. But the guidance they offer on using paraquat is poor. Some of the retailers said that they usually get incentives if they achieve target sales, which raises the possibility that retailers could make claims in favour of a particular product in order to increase the sales. In addition, some retailers in West Bengal State sell paraquat in refilled drinks bottles and plastic carrier bags, without labels or instruction leaflets. All these practices are dangerous and send the wrong message to farming communities, as well as to the workers, that paraquat can be handled without taking proper protective measures. This, in turn, could contribute to improper and indiscriminate use, while increasing the health and environmental risks.
health and death of domestic animals such as cows, goats and hens were also reported from the field. Conclusion The study shows that farmers and workers in India lack proper information on the use of paraquat and use of personal protective measures, which in turn increase the risk of exposure and poisoning. The study revealed that paraquat use is happening in India against the advice of the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee. In addition, manufacturers and retailers violate the Indian Insecticides Act. Besides, national legislation, International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, the Chemicals Convention (1990) and Safety and Health in Agriculture Convention (2001) are also being violated. The field data shows a growing failure of the current regulatory system and the need for an effective regulation and monitoring system in India.
The study calls on the Indian government to immediately stop the violations of the national and Health effects international legislation on pesticide use, take necessary steps towards a The study revealed that paraquat is progressive ban of paraquat in India being used in unsafe conditions and to promote and popularise nonwhere the chances of exposure and chemical alternatives for paraquat the risk of poisoning is much higher other herbicides. for the users. The study shows numerous adverse health effects and References symptoms reported by farmers and workers as result of paraquat use. 1. www.panap.net/sites/default/files/ These included: abdominal Paraquat-use-India_EN_WEB.pdf discomfort, allergy, breathing difficulties, burning sensation, Contact: email@example.com diarrhoea, dizziness, eye burning, fever, giddiness, headache, itching and irritation, lethargy, breathing difficulty, toe nail damage, muscle pain, vomiting, nausea, tiredness and discomfort, skin burns and colour changes on fingers. In addition, ill 4
No.100 May 2015
PAN UK for Pesticide-Free towns and cities in the UK This summer, Pesticide Action Network UK will be launching a new campaign calling for Brighton & Hove to become the first pesticide free city in the UK.. PAN UK Policy Officer Nick Mole explains. Across the UK in our towns and cities pesticides are being sprayed to control weeds and other pests. They are used on our streets and roads, parks and playgrounds, in schools and around hospitals all the time exposing residents and the environment to the potentially harmful effects associated with their use.
pesticide with no harmful side effects. As such it is approved for use in the EU and UK and the general opinion of those on local councils responsible for spraying is that it is harmless to people and other non-target organisms. However, this positive assessment increasingly been questioned.
PAN UK believes that it is time for a major change in the way that things are done. The UK needs to catch up with other progressive countries around the world already making a stand against the use of pesticides in urban areas – it is time to end the use of pesticides in UK towns and cities.
In 2011, a group of eminent toxicologists and health professionals published a report that showed, amongst other things, that the manufacturers of glyphosate knew in the 1980s that their product could cause birth defects in experimental animals at high doses; since 1993 the industry also knew it could do the Why are we so concerned about same at mid to low doses; and that the the use of pesticides in towns? It is European Commission has known very clear to us that the growing body that glyphosate causes birth defects of evidence about the harmful effects since 2002. In spite of this, of pesticides on human health and the glyphosate was approved for use in environment provides more than the EU. Researchers in the USA have enough incentive to adopt a shown correlations between the precautionary approach to their use. increase in the use of glyphosate and Not only do we have plenty of increases in as many as 32 different evidence of harm to human health illnesses. and the environment from pesticides, but we also have legislative In April 2015, the International incentives. The EU Directive on the Agency for Research on Cancer Sustainable Use of Pesticides (SUD) (IARC) – the World Health clearly states that EU Member States Organisation’s cancer agency – should stop or seriously reduce the concluded, after an exhaustive review use of pesticides in areas frequented of the scientific evidence, that by the public. There are other drivers glyphosate is probably carcinogenic too; including the UK’s new National to humans. This is hugely worrying, Pollinator Strategy (NPS). One if its given the heavy use of this pesticide aims is to improve the environment in highly populated areas, and the for urban pollinators; not using presence of glyphosate residues in pesticides is a very simple way to many common foodstuffs. A recent help achieve this worthy goal. study by Friends of the Earth found the presence of glyphosate in urine Glyphosate sold as "safe" and breast milk of people in the EU. Perhaps the most notable issue at Serious health impacts present is that of the use of huge amounts of glyphosate on our streets. There have been serious health Glyphosate is the most widely used impacts from the use of glyphosate in herbicide in the world and for many countries around the world, perhaps years has been sold as a “safe” most notably in Argentina where 30 www.pan-uk.org
000 doctors and health professionals have called publicly for glyphosate to be banned. The reason they are calling for the ban is due not only to the findings of IARC, but because it is suspected of causing a range of serious health impacts in Argentina including ; spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin disease, respiratory illness and neurological disease. Argentina is not the only country looking to ban – or at the very least reduce – the use of glyphosate: Brazil, Colombia and Sri Lanka are all looking at full or partial bans on its use. Closer to home, the Dutch are considering a ban, and in France, legislation has been introduced to ban the use of all non agricultural pesticides by 2020. Community action But it’s not just governments that are taking action. All over the world, local communities, villages, towns and cities are taking their own steps to cut the use of pesticides – including glyphosate. In France, over 300 towns and villages, including 5
Pesticides News Paris, have gone pesticide free and an ever growing number aiming to follow suit. In the USA, major cities, like Seattle, now maintain their public parks and green spaces without pesticides. But Canada is probably the most striking example. Responding to local demands, hundreds of towns and villages across the country have introduced by-laws to cut pesticide use in their areas and now nearly four fifths of Canadians live in an area where there are restrictions on non-agricultural pesticide use. The success of – and local support for – these initiatives clearly demonstrates that it is possible to maintain urban areas without the use of pesticides. Radical shift in thinking PAN UK, starting with Brighton & Hove, wants to see a radical shift in thinking about pesticide use in towns and cities across the UK with the ultimate goal of the complete cessation of their use in urban areas
No.100 May 2015 where the vast majority of us live.
free campaign and there will be help and advice available on our website. This campaign is not something we Please feel free to contact us to will be undertaking in isolation; this discuss how we might help and needs to be a community campaign hopefully work together to get these involving organisations, groups and toxic chemicals out of the places individuals from across the where we live, work and play. community spectrum and whether their interests are in general References sustainability, human health issues, 1. eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ biodiversity or wider environmental EN/ALL/? issues. We already have the support uri=CELEX:02009L0128-20091125 of local groups including Brighton Breast Cancer Action and the 2. www.gov.uk/government/uploads/ Brighton and Hove Organic Garden system/uploads/attachment_data/ Group and we are looking forward to file/409431/pb14221-nationalwelcoming others into our loose pollinators-strategy.pdf coalition. 3. earthopensource.org/earth-openInspiring others source-reports/roundup-and-birthA successful shift in Brighton can defects-is-the-public-being-kept-inthe-dark/ inspire others across the UK. Local campaigns are already emerging in Falmouth, Camden and Newcastle – see elsewhere in this issue for news from these campaigns – and we will be encouraging others to do the same. PAN UK is here to help anybody wanting to start their own pesticide
4. www.i-sis.org.uk/ Deterioration_of_Public_Health.php 5. www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/ iarcnews/pdf/ MonographVolume112.pdf Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Becoming a #pesticidebuster in Camden, London Natasha Clayton of the Pesticide-Free campaign in the London Borough of Camden explains why she set up the campaign there. My life is largely pesticide free. I eat mainly organic food, drink mainly organic wine and have never used pesticides in my garden. Sadly once I step out onto the street or into the local park I am no longer pesticide free. Glyphosate is used in both the streets and parks of Camden. The local garden centre shelves are groaning with a wide variety of pesticides – we estimated that there are over 20 metres of shelving dedicated to pesticides in one local store – which means they are being used in many of the gardens of Camden too. Having spent time last year campaigning for a national bee action plan I felt it was time to focus more specifically on pesticides and to bring the issue back to a local level too – thus the idea for a Pesticide Free Camden came about. It was an easy ask to persuade my local Friends of the Earth group to make this their primary campaign this spring and so the idea of a #pesticidebuster was born. Why #pesticidebuster? The idea came about when we were talking about alternatives to pesticides such as glyphosate. One cost-effective treatment is the use of hot foam. It was when searching for images of both pesticide spraying and hot foam treatment I was stuck by the resemblance to the Ghostbusters crew. During last year’s bee campaign I’d met a number of people & groups who were likely to be supportive and I raised the idea of a pesticide campaign with them, slowly gathering support and working out what could be achieved. I knew from past experience that it is often better to work closely with the council rather than simply campaign against them and it was through one of my contacts that I was put in direct touch with the right person in the council. I’ve shared the campaign plans with them and that has enabled the council to be prepared with the answers to ‘how www.pan-uk.org
No.100 May 2015
much glyphosate have you used in the last year’ and ‘what else are you doing to reduce pesticide used’. That’s not to say we won’t try & push them further, but equally it’s important to recognise their constraints too. From our perspective though, this is not just a council issue. That’s why we decided to ask residents to take a threefold pledge before classing themselves as a #pesticidebuster. 1. To sign the petition to ask the council to become pesticide free 2. To commit to becoming pesticide free themselves, and 3. To write to their local garden centres asking them to take the most hazardous pesticides off their shelves. At the time of writing we are just about to formally launch the campaign, May being a time when many people will be making choices about their garden. We expect it to run (both online and at local festivals) through the spring & summer before presenting the petition results to the council. With a local council seeking to be “the most sustainable borough in London” becoming Pesticide Free Camden could be the perfect start. www.camdenfoe.org.uk/pesticides
No to poison parks in Falmouth, Cornwall Sarah Patterson explains why she set up a campaign against pesticide use in Falmouth, Cornwall Following emails received from both my County and Town councils, confirming extensive glyphosate usage in children’s, and other public areas in Falmouth, it became apparent they had no intention of seeking out an alternative, regardless of health impacts on the community, both residents and tourists. Glyphosate is sprayed in some schools, all parks and play parks, most verges and all over the streets. The dropper method on a specific weed is not exercised, instead a blanket spraying method is used, a foot wide at least, sometimes. Weeds don't seem to be the issue, they instead target the grass, which any normal person would use a strimmer on, or not worry about. Exercising your rights and trying to avoid where glyphosate has been sprayed shows just how invasive the practice is. From not being able to simply sit in a park due to lack warning signs in the UK, to not wearing flip-flops along the street in a seaside town, where walking onto a sprayed verge may be unavoidable, to knowing the tight chest feeling and burning eyes you have, is because they’ve just sprayed near your house. Lo and behold, the evidence is there a few days later, even though you’d asked the council on numerous occasions, not to spray there. When the WHO reclassified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, I asked Falmouth Town Council once again, to stop at least spraying children’s areas; to which the answer was “No, the town has to look sharp”. Within a couple of hours, the “NO to Poison Parks in Falmouth” campaign was launched, followed by the “Don’t Hurt Our Dogs” campaign. I wish to use both of the campaigns to inform everyone impacted, by the spraying of this dangerous chemical in Falmouth, a famous tourist town; gather support for the campaigns; and to give Falmouth Town Council no choice, but to “down knapsack” and pick up a healthier alternative for all the residents and tourists; both two and four legged. I’m in disbelief that starting a campaign is even necessary, it simply highlights the lack of protection, we as UK residents have.
Further information: you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-to-poison-parks-in-falmouth
No.100 May 2015
News in brief Field level studies show neonioctinoids harm bees Two new scientific papers provide evidence that field level exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides can have a negative impact on wild bees. A study by researchers in Sweden concludes that the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin poses “a substantial risk to wild bees in agricultural landscape”1. The study is significant because it clearly shows that exposure to neonicotinoids under “real life” conditions harms bee populations. The researchers, led by Maj Rundlöf of Lund University, found that oilseed rape treated with a seed coating of beta-cyfluthrin and clothianidin “reduced wild bee density, solitary bee nesting and bumblebee growth”. The impact was significant: wild bee populations actually halved in the vicinity of the neonicotinoid treated crop, while bumblebee hives produced less than a third of the queens in non-treated areas. The study was unable to show a similar impact on honeybee populations.
actually shows a negative relationship between pesticide use and how well the colony performed. Goulson says that the FERA study shows “substantial negative impacts of neonicotinoids on colony performance of any bee species with free flying bees in a field realistic situation.” He goes on to conclude that “wild bumblebee colonies in farmland can be expected to be adversely affected by exposure to neonicotinoids.” Justice in sight for organophosphate sufferers?
Political pressure is mounting for an independent inquiry into the UK government’s failure to protect farmers from poisoning by organophosphate sheep dip. Until 1992, the UK required farmers to treat their livestock with organophosphates to control parasites. Hundreds of UK farmers were poisoned by exposure to the sheep dip in the 1980s and 1990s and continue to suffer debilitating illness to this day. An investigation by the Guardian newspaper3 has uncovered an internal report by the UK Health Meanwhile, an independent and Safety Executive from 1991 reanalysis of the infamous 2013 which shows that the government was “FERA study” has shown that aware that the use of OP sheep dip exposure to neonicotinoid posed serious health risks, but failed insecticides negatively impacts to act. In fact, that same year, the UK bumblebee colony growth and queen government redoubled its efforts to production2. The original study, by punish farmers who failed to use the the UK’s Food and Environment pesticide. The report is unambiguous Research Agency, which was not peer and damning. It makes it clear that reviewed, came to the opposite “repeated absorption of small doses conclusion and found no clear [of OPs] can have a cumulative effect relationship between neonicotinoid and can result in progressive exposure and colony performance. inhibition of nervous system The study was used by the UK cholinesterase”. Government to justify its opposition The finding has been described as to European Commission proposals to a scandal by leading politicians and restrict certain neonicotoids. The has triggered a demand for a public reanalysis, conducted by professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University, inquiry which has received cross party support – including from the which unpicks the statistical Shadow Health Secretary Andy gymnastics performed by FERA, www.pan-uk.org
Burnham, and former Environment Minister Michael Meacher. The revelation that the government knew of the risks, but failed to act, and the level of political support, will give hope that OP sufferers will finally receive justice. The plight of OP sufferers has been ignored by successive governments and attempts to secure compensation have been hampered by the difficulty in demonstrating a direct linkage between an exposure incident and illness. The HSE report includes a comment that many involved in pesticide management will find familiar. The report’s authors complain that “if with all of the resources available to them, a major chemical company proves unable to select appropriate protective equipment, what hope is there for the end user?” Surely another scandal is that chemical companies still fail to do enough to prevent exposure to pesticide and that this statement is as relevant today in parts of the world as it was a quarter of a century ago. References 1. Rundlof, M, et al. (2015) Seed coating with a neonicotinoid insecticide negatively affects wild bees, Nature 2. Goulson, D (2015) Neonicotinoids impact bumblebee colony fitness in the field; a reanalysis of the UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency 2012 experiment. 3. www.theguardian.com/ environment/2015/apr/20/revealedgovernment-knew-of-farm-poisoningrisk-but-failed-to-act
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