PESTICIDE NEWS The Journal of Pesticide Action Network UK
An international perspective on the health and environmental effects of pesticides
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Agroecology threatens the existence of a toxic pesticide industry Highly hazardous profits - a Public Eye report A failure to enforce environmental laws - a UN Environment report PAN UK resigns from government and industry pesticide bodies A guide to maintaining an organic lawn
AGROECOLOGY THREATENS THE EXISTENCE OF A TOXIC PESTICIDE INDUSTRY By Professor Michel Pimbert Pesticide companies are caught up in a fierce competition for survival. In the current context of global mergers and restructurings, transnational corporations need to continuously increase their sales of synthetic pesticides in every possible corner of the world. An extremely well-funded corporate PR machine ensures that any negative information about the public health and environmental impacts of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other pesticides is met head on, minimised, ridiculed, or dismissed as unscientific. Substantial evidence for the harm caused by pesticides - and industry’s aggressive defence of its products - is now widely available in the literature, and was recently highlighted at the emblematic Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague (European Civic Forum, 2018). But the idea that growing food and fibres like cotton does not require the use of synthetic pesticides is particularly worrying for the pesticide industry and its shareholders. The prospect that advances in scientific knowledge could close down their markets is indeed deeply destabilising for the pesticide industry as a whole. This threat has recently prompted a new wave of industry propaganda in favour of continued pesticide use - including global advertising campaigns, intense lobbying of pesticide regulation bodies, and co-ordinated attacks on independent scientists who expose pesticide risks. Most notably, the narratives that ‘pesticides are needed to feed the world’ and that we cannot ‘go back to farming by muck and magic’ have recently targeted
agroecology - which is simultaneously a science, a set of practices, and a social movement (Wezel et al, 2009). At the heart of agroecology is the idea that agro-ecosystems should mimic the biodiversity levels and functioning of natural ecosystems. Such agricultural mimics, like their natural models, can be productive, pest resistant, nutrient conserving, and resilient to shocks and stresses. In ecosystems, there is no ‘waste’: nutrients are recycled indefinitely. Agroecology aims at closing nutrient loops (i.e. returning all nutrients that come out of the soil back to the soil, such as through composting of vegetable scraps and applications of farmyard manure). It also harnesses natural processes to control pests and build soil fertility (e.g. through polycultures, mulching, cover crops). Agroecological practices include integrating trees with livestock and crops (agro-sylvo-pastoral farming), producing food from forests (agroforestry), growing several crops together in one plot (polyculture) and using locally adapted and genetically diverse crops and livestock by working at different scales from the farm plot to the wider landscapes that sustain crop cultivation, pastoralism, fisheries, and forest-based livelihoods (Gliessman, 2014). Evidence from all continents shows that the right kind of vegetation diversity is effective in controlling insects pests and diseases – from multiple cropping and crop diversification that enhances biological pest control to the management of crop-weed interactions designed to suppress the growth of harmful weeds (Altieri 1994).
Coffee bushes in a shade-grown organic coffee plantation on the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador (Shutterstock)
Unlike most conventional agricultural research and development, agroecological approaches consciously seek to combine the experiential knowledge of peasant farmers and indigenous peoples with the latest insights from the science of ecology. Agroecological practices thus combine local indigenous knowledge with modern ecological science to generate good yields as well as other multifunctional benefits. For example, a large-scale comparison of the yields of agroecological/organic farms with conventional farms (Badgley et al, 2007) showed that:
dependence on suppliers of costly pesticides and other external inputs. It also links farmers with local and regional markets within specific territories (Gliessman, 2014; CSM, 2016).
• In developed countries, agroecological/organic systems on average produce 92% of the yield produced by conventional agriculture. In developing countries, however, organic agroecological systems produce 80% more than conventional farms. These findings are based on a global dataset of 293 examples.
It is noteworthy that at a global level, ‘agroecology’ was barely recognized within official circles only a decade ago. But today it has become more centrestage in policy discourses on food and farming, thanks to a number of influential international processes (IPES-Food, 2016). For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hosted a major international symposium on agroecology in April 2018. On the basis of available science, this FAO symposium clearly stated that agroecology is key to transforming food and agricultural systems and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (FAO, 2018).
This re-localisation of production and consumption not only reduces the carbon and ecological footprints of agrifood systems (Steffen et al, 2015; IAASTD, 2009; Pimbert, 2015). It also helps reduce the debilitating cost-price squeeze that is causing farm bankruptcies and the massive migration of rural people to city slums in search for uncertain livelihoods (Pimbert, 2008).
• The materials needed for agroecological/organic farming are more accessible to farmers in developing countries. Poor and marginalised farmers usually cannot afford the seeds as well as the synthetic fertilisers and pesticides needed for Green Revolution agriculture.
This growing international recognition is good news for farmers and social movements who argue for agroecological approaches to food, farming and land use. But not surprisingly, the agro-chemical industry feels very threatened by visions of agroecological transformation that would eliminate the need to use synthetic pesticides. Industry’s response is to either reject agroecology out of hand or co-opt parts of agroecology to sustain ‘business as usual’.
• The world currently produces the equivalent of 2786 calories per person per day. If farms worldwide were to switch to organic agroecological methods today, farms could produce between 2641 and 4381 calories per person per day under an organic-only regime (Badgley et al, 2007). A more transformative agroecology brings back a functional diversity on farms - genetic, species and ecosystem diversity - to reduce farmers’
For example, the more enlightened companies aim to substitute highly toxic pesticides with alternative company brands (e.g. patented microbial pesticides) that may be less dangerous for public health and the environment. But this input substitution approach does not question industrial agriculture’s reliance on the genetically uniform monocultures that are so vulnerable to disease and pest outbreaks (Rosset and Altieri, 2017). Indeed, industry strategies basically aim to conform with – rather than transform – the dominant agri-food regime (Pimbert, 2015).
R&D funding strongly favours agrochemical companies who depend on the continued dominance of industrial agriculture to survive and prosper. But despite this dearth of research funding, the achievements of agroecology are truly remarkable across the world (FAO, 2018). Securing substantial increases in public funding for agroecological R&D would undoubtedly enable a world-wide rapid expansion of agroecological diversification and regeneration of local markets for sustainable territorial development. In this supportive context, an immediate priority would be to fund agroecological innovations that can phase out the use of pesticides which currently harm the health of factory and farm workers, poison our food, and increase the loss of biodiversity.
Very low levels of public funding for agroecological research and development (R&D) currently limit the possibilities of scaling out a transformative agroecology to more people and places across the world. In the USA for example, a recent analysis of funding by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that projects with an emphasis on agroecology represented only 0.6– 1.5% of the entire 2014 USDA Research, Extension, and Economics budget (Delonge et al, 2016).
Agroecology projects represent only 0.6–1.5% of the entire USDA Research budget (2014)
During agroecological transitions the future of the pesticide industry and its employees will also need to be fundamentally re-thought, - as part of a process of de-growth in harmful activities that creates meaningful work and sustainable livelihoods. In this regard, could the Lucas Plan (Smith, 2014) and similar workers’ plans to convert the weapons industry into socially and environmental useful production provide models for the phasing out and reconversion of toxic pesticide industries? This question is rarely asked. But it will need to be addressed by citizens in any large scale agroecological transition to more sustainable and just agri-food systems.
UK development aid barely supports agroecology: overseas aid for agroecological projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is less than 5% of agricultural aid and less than 0.5% of total UK aid budget since 2010 (Pimbert and Moeller, 2018). The lion’s share of overseas aid for food and agriculture supports the growth of Green Revolution farming in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is undeniable that this huge bias in
Michel Pimbert is Professor of Agroecology and Food Politics at Coventry University and the Director of the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience in the UK. An agricultural ecologist by training, he previously worked at the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India, the University François Rabelais de Tours in France, and the World Wide Fund for Nature in Switzerland. Professor Pimbert has been a Board member of several international organisations working on food sovereignty, sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, and human rights. From 2013 to 2017 he was a member of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. His research interests include agroecology and food sovereignty; the political ecology of biodiversity and natural resource management; participatory action research methodologies; and deliberative democratic processes. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
References Altieri, M., 1994. Biodiversity and pest management in agroecosystems. The Haworth Press, New York. Badgley C. et al, 2007. Organic agriculture and the global food supply. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 22 (2): 86-108
Pimbert, M. P., 2008. Towards Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming Autonomous Food Systems. Rachel Carson Centre and International Institute for Environment and Development, London and Munich. http://www.environmentandsociety.org/ mml/pimbert-michel-towards-food-sovereigntyreclaiming-autonomous-food-systems
DeLonge, M.S., Miles, A. and L. Carlisle (2016) “Investing in the transition to sustainable agriculture”, Environmental Science & Policy 55 (1): 266–273. European Civic Forum and Foundation Monsanto Tribunal, 2018. Ecocide Corporations on trial. International Monsanto Tribunal, The Hague 2016. European Civic Forum and Foundation Monsanto Tribunal. https://en.monsantotribunal.org/upload/ asset_cache/549626681.pdf?rnd=DLBHeE
Pimbert, M. P., 2015. Agroecology as an alternative vision to conventional development and climatesmart agriculture, Development, 58(2/3): 286–298. Pimbert, M. P and N. Moeller, 2018. Absent Agroecology Aid: On UK agricultural development assistance since 2010. Sustainability, 10(2) 505-515.
Gliessman, Stephen R. (2014). Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
Rosset, Peter and Miguel A. Altieri (2017) Agroecology. Science and Politics. Fernwood, Ontario.
FAO, 2018. Scaling up Agroecology Initiative. Transforming food and agricultural systems in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). FAO, Rome.
Smith, A., 2014. The Lucas Plan: What can it tell us about democratising technology today? The Guardian, 22 January 2014. https://www.theguardian. com/science/political-science/2014/jan/22/ remembering-the-lucas-plan-what-can-it-tell-usabout-democratising-technology-today
IAASTD, 2009. Agriculture at a Crossroads: Synthesis Report, International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, Technology for Development. Island Press and UNEP, UNDP, FAO, UNESCO, The World Bank, Global Environment Facility, and WHO.
Steffen, William et al. (2015) Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet, Science, 347 (6223): 1-15.
IPES-Food, 2016. From Uniformity to Diversity: A Paradigm Shift from Industrial Agriculture to Diversified Agroecological Systems, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.
Wezel, A., S. Bellon, T. Doré, C. Francis, D. Vallod and C. David, 2009. Agroecology as a science, a movement and a practice. A review, Agronomy for Sustainable Development 29(4): 503–515.
HIGHLY HAZARDOUS PROFITS - A PUBLIC EYE REPORT Research by Public Eye reveals that the most dangerous pesticides, known as “highly hazardous”, are used heavily in low- and middleincome countries (LMICs), despite being – for the most part – banned in Switzerland and the European Union (EU). Public Eye’s in-depth probe into the opaque world of highly hazardous pesticides also reveals that the Swiss agrochemical giant, Syngenta, is one of the main companies responsible for the flood of such products into LMICs. (The text below is an extract from the report)
Concerns over the health impacts of pesticides are escalating. While farmers and rural residents are exposed most frequently and directly, residues of pesticides are found everywhere: in our food, our drinking water, in the rain and in the air. In short, no one remains untouched by pesticide exposure.
has come to put an end to this dirty business.
It is now widely accepted that in order to reduce risks, pesticides that are acknowledged to present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to health or the environment – the “highly hazardous pesticides” (HHPs) – must be taken off the market.
EXPOSURE TO PESTICIDES: A TICKING TIME BOMB
Pesticides are poisons, designed to kill living organisms such as pests and weeds. By their very nature, they can also affect humans and other non-target organisms. UN experts This conclusion have recently warned Pesticides have a is based on our that pesticides have a analysis of exclusive “catastrophic impact” “catastrophic impact” industry data, which on the environment, on the environment, lifts the lid on a human health and human health and ticking time-bomb society as a whole, that dramatically society as a whole, including an endangers human including an estimated estimated 25 million health and the 25 million cases of acute cases of acute environment. Our poisoning resulting in investigation in poisoning resulting 220,000 deaths a year. Brazil, the world’s in 220,000 deaths a year. They have expressed largest user of “grave concern” over pesticides, shows the impact of chronic that millions are exposure to pesticides, including cancer, exposed to pesticides that present Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, significant hazards to human health hormone disruption, developmental – including through drinking water. disorders, sterility and neurological health Scientists fear this could trigger an effects. epidemic of chronic diseases. The time
Approximately three million tonnes of pesticides are applied worldwide every year, an amount that has been constantly increasing over the past three decades, especially in LMICs, which now account for over half of pesticide use.
This represents a paradigm shift from decades of thinking that all risks associated with pesticides can be well-managed and reduced to an acceptable level, for example through training programmes promoting socalled ‘safe use'. In other words the old risk management approach is now seen as not sufficient when pesticides are intrinsically highly hazardous. However, despite progress in recognising the dangers of HHPs, very little is known about the extent of their use and the companies behind this dirty business.
of its best sellers – consists of substances listed as “highly hazardous” by PAN. Based on exclusive data from Phillips McDougall, the leading agribusiness intelligence company, Public Eye estimates that Basel-based Syngenta made some USD 3.9 billion by selling highly hazardous pesticides in 2017 - over 40% of its pesticide sales that year, with a volume of about 400,000 tonnes. About two thirds of those sales were made in LMICs. Brazil is the company’s largest market, but it also sells its toxic pesticides in Argentina, China, Paraguay, Mexico, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia, Kenya and Ghana, among others.
For this reason, Public Eye investigated the opaque business of highly hazardous pesticides over several months. Based on exclusive industry data and using the list of highly hazardous pesticides developed by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), our report shines a light on the massive use of these dangerous substances in LMICs, and the central role played by Swissbased agrochemical giant, Syngenta, in promoting their use. Most – though not all – highly hazardous pesticides are no longer authorized for use in Switzerland and the EU. The situation is completely different in LMICs: our research suggests that about 1.2 million tonnes of highly hazardous pesticides are used in these countries every year, representing a huge market – some USD 13 billion.
SCANDALOUS DOUBLE STANDARDS While the company boasts of providing “world-class science and innovative crop solutions” to farmers around the globe, the facts do not match the rhetoric. Since 2000, Syngenta has developed only eight new molecules. Some of its toxic blockbusters – such as highly controversial paraquat, atrazine, lambdacyhalothrin or glyphosate – have been on the market for decades. Fifty-one of the 120 pesticide active ingredients in Syngenta’s portfolio are not authorized for use in its home country, Switzerland; sixteen of them were banned because of their impact on human health and the environment. But Syngenta continues selling them in lower income countries, where standards are often weaker and less strictly enforced.
WARNING: HIGHLY HAZARDOUS BUSINESS MODEL Syngenta presents itself as an agricultural company that helps to feed the planet while protecting biodiversity and keeping farmers safe. The company’s public ambition is to be at the forefront of the transition towards a more sustainable agriculture. Our research reveals a very different reality: selling highly hazardous pesticides is at the core of Syngenta’s business model. About one third of Syngenta’s pesticide portfolio – and half
Confronted with our findings, Syngenta said it does not agree with the list that PAN has developed. The company indicated its support for regulating pesticides based on risks not hazards, and stressed that it complies with all of the regulatory and safety standards of the countries where its products are registered for sale.
Copyright: Lunae Parrracho Mato Grosso
Fernando Bejarano from PAN Mexico does not share that view. He said: “Companies such as Syngenta have chosen to promote profit over people and take advantage of weaker regulations in lower income countries to increase their sales.” And he stressed that people living in low and middle income countries “are paying the price, in terms of health and environmental impacts”.
POISON IN THE WATER “There is probably not a single citizen in this country without a certain level of pesticide exposure”, says Ada Cristina Pontes Aguiar, medical doctor and researcher at the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil. Our dive into Brazilian’s drinking water confirms this assessment. Through a freedom of information request, Public Eye accessed a government database of drinking water monitoring from 2014–2017.
In order to better understand the consequences for people in lower income countries, we decided to go to Brazil, the largest user of toxic pesticides and Syngenta’s largest growth market.
Pesticide residues were found in 86% of drinking water samples tested. A total of 454 Brazilian municipalities, with a population of 33 million, detected pesticide residues in their drinking water above the legal limits at least once during the four-year period.
BRAZIL, SYNGENTA’S LARGEST MARKET FOR TOXIC PESTICIDES Over the last two decades, Brazil has become an agricultural superpower. The country is now the world’s second largest global supplier of food and agricultural products, and the main exporter of soy, coffee, sugarcane and tobacco. Pesticide use has skyrocketed in Brazil over the last thirty years, and the country is now the largest user worldwide, with some 540,000 tonnes of pesticides applied in 2017, for a market value of USD 8.9 billion.
Overall, the level of contamination of the drinking water in Brazil is far higher than what is found in the EU or Switzerland. While in the EU only 0.1% of drinking water samples exceed the limit of 0.1 micrograms per litre, in Brazil 12.5% of test results found residues of pesticides above this concentration. A major concern is that a cocktail of 27 toxic substances is regularly found in the drinking water of Brazilian municipalities. Seven of these substances are currently sold by Syngenta in Brazil. 1,396 municipalities, with a combined population of over 85 million, detected traces of all 27 pesticides in their drinking water during the four-year period.
Brazil is also the largest user of the most toxic pesticides. According to our analysis of the official statistics published by the Ministry of the Environment (IBAMA), about 370,000 tonnes of highly hazardous pesticides were sprayed on agricultural fields in the country in 2017 – approximately 20% of the worldwide use. Syngenta is the main seller of pesticides in Brazil, with an 18% share of the national market, accounting for sales that reached USD 1.6 billion in 2017. Our analysis indicates that most of that total comes from the sale of pesticides listed by PAN as “highly hazardous”, which in 2017 amounted to about 100,000 tonnes at a market value we estimate at USD 1 billion.
All these substances interact and can have additive – or even synergistic – effects. The unsettling conclusion is that millions of Brazilians are exposed to a cocktail of pesticides in their drinking water that has never been tested, and the effects of which remain largely unknown.
The Swiss authorities must adopt binding rules to fight this illegitimate and highly dangerous business, by:
AN EPIDEMIC OF CHRONIC DISEASES Evidence of the link between pesticides and elevated rates of chronic diseases in Brazil is accumulating. Researchers and government agencies are warning that pesticides constitute a major public health concern in the country. Studies are documenting disturbing rates of cancers, birth defects, and other chronic diseases in regions where pesticide use is highest. In 2015, the Brazilian National Cancer Agency (INCA) issued a statement against current practices of pesticide use and warned of the increased risk of chronic diseases. INCA also warned that the health consequences of the rapid increase of pesticide use in Brazil might only be starting to be felt, â€œas chronic diseases develop sometimes many years after exposureâ€?.
1. Prohibiting the export of pesticides that have been banned in Switzerland because of their impact on human health and the environment, as demanded in a motion filed by National Councillor Lisa Mazzone; 2. Establishing mandatory human rights due diligence for companies based in Switzerland, as proposed by the Responsible Business Initiative; 3. Unequivocally supporting the efforts in favour of an international legally binding treaty to phase out highly hazardous pesticides and replace them with safer alternatives. Future generations have to be protected from the damaging consequences of highly hazardous pesticides. It is time to act and regulate the irresponsible global trade in poisons, and end the double standards that have permitted it to flourish. Read the full report by Public Eye at: https://www.publiceye.ch/en/topics/ pesticides
TIME TO ACT: OUR DEMANDS Syngenta, as the leading player on the agrochemical market, must show responsibility by committing to stop producing and selling highly hazardous pesticides globally. As Syngentaâ€™s host country, Switzerland has a special responsibility.
Copyright: Fabio Erdos Mato Grosso
GROWTH IN LAWS TO PROTECT ENVIRONMENT, BUT FAILURE TO ENFORCE - A UN ENVIRONMENT REPORT “We have the machinery in the form of laws, regulations and agencies to govern our environment sustainably,” Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment said. “Political will is now critical to making sure our laws work for the planet. This first global assessment on environmental rule of law highlights the work of those standing on the right side of history — and how many nations are stronger and safer as a result.”
The first-ever global assessment of environmental rule of law finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades. Despite a 38-fold increase in environmental laws put in place since 1972, failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss, the UN Environment report found.
The report details the many developments in environmental law since 1972, including the adoption of a constitutional right to a healthy environment by 88 countries, with another 65 countries having enshrined environmental protection in their constitutions. In addition, over 350 environmental courts and tribunals have been established in over 50 countries, and more than 60 countries have at least some legal provisions for citizens’ right to environmental information.
"This report solves the mystery of why problems such as pollution, declining biodiversity and climate change persist despite the proliferation of environmental laws in recent decades,” David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment said. “Unless the environmental rule of law is strengthened, even seemingly rigorous rules are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled."
“The international community can do more,” Carl Bruch, Director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute said. “Too often donor support focuses on very specific areas of the environment, resulting in robust environmental programs in some areas, and no funding or attention to other areas. This patchwork approach can undermine environmental rule of law by not providing consistency in implementation and enforcement and by sending confusing messages to the regulated community and the public. As a result, many of these laws have yet to take root across society, and in most instances, the culture of environmental compliance is weak or non-existent.”
While international aid did help countries to enter into over 1,100 environmental agreements since 1972 and develop many environmental framework laws, neither aid, nor domestic budgeting, has led to the establishment of strong environmental agencies capable of effectively enforcing laws and regulations. The report authors identify multiple factors contributing to poor enforcement of environmental rule of law, including poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic engagement.
The report devotes significant attention to one particularly worrying trend: the growing resistance to environmental laws, which has been most evident in the harassment, arbitrary arrests threats, and killing of environmental defenders. Between 2002 and 2013, 908 people — including forest rangers, government inspectors, and local activists – were killed in 35 countries, and in 2017 alone, 197 environmental defenders were murdered. “The criminalization and increasing attacks on environment defenders are clear violations of environmental rule of law and an affront to the rights, roles and contributions of indigenous peoples and civil society in protecting our environment. This report captures the prevailing lack of accountability, strong environmental governance and respect for human rights for the sustainability of our environment,” said Joan Carling, indigenous rights activist and environmental defender from the Philippines.
“very good” in producing a regular, comprehensive, and current “State of the Environment” report. In India, Thailand, and Uganda, data on pollution stemming from industrial facilities can only be obtained through a personal contact. The Environmental Governance Programme at UN Environment works with countries to promote effective and inclusive environmental governance, underpinned by policy and legislation, and informed and empowered institutions.
The effective engagement of an informed civil society results in better decision making by government, more responsible environmental actions by companies, and more effective environmental law. The provision of periodic reports on domestic environmental quality, including on air quality and water quality helps achieve these goals. Unfortunately, according to the Environmental Democracy Index, only 20 of 70 countries reviewed, or 28 percent, are ranked as “good” or
Read the full report at: https://www.unenvironment.org/ news-and-stories/press-release/ dramatic-growth-laws-protectenvironment-widespread-failureenforce-finds-report
PAN UK AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS RESIGN FROM GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY PESTICIDE BODIES to better protection of the environment. The UK government had long opposed our calls for the introduction of binding measures to curb pesticide use (such as a pesticide reduction target and tax), instead arguing that these voluntary groups could be just as effective. So we put our cynicism on hold and gave them a chance, becoming members alongside organisations from a range of sectors including government and the agrochemical industry.
We recently announced our formal resignation from the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative. These bodies were formed by government and industry to reduce environmental harms from pesticides. However, in the two decades since they were created, the area of land in the UK treated with pesticides has risen by more than half and populations of wildlife (including birds, butterflies and bees) are suffering alarming declines. Meanwhile the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative have continued to defend the status quo, and they’re doing it in our name.
However despite our best efforts, the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative have failed to take significant action to reduce pesticiderelated harms. As a result, we have engaged less and less in their work and have become increasingly uncomfortable with our association with them.
This is why, after much careful consideration, PAN UK has decided to resign from our membership of both bodies. We are leaving alongside RSPB and Wildlife and Countryside Link – England’s largest environment coalition representing 50 organisations which together garner the support of eight million people. As the last remaining civil society members, we are issuing a joint call for the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative to be replaced with mandatory measures aimed at discouraging pesticide use and supporting UK farmers to transition to non-chemical alternatives.
Meanwhile, since their creation, public opposition to pesticides has continued to grow and there is an increasing number of UK farmers leading the way by reducing their own pesticide use. The UK government has recently taken a few small but important steps to protect the environment from pesticides by banning metaldehyde and supporting restrictions on bee-toxic neonicotinoids. As a result, the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative are now lagging behind public opinion, government policy and large swathes of the farming community.
PAN UK originally joined the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative in the genuine hope that their work would lead
Recent evidence on insect declines has been the final straw.
It was revealed in February that more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The authors of the study identified one of the key causes as pesticides. A crisis this deep needs radical solutions – the time for soft, voluntary approaches is over. We simply cannot remain members of groups continuing to push the ‘business as usual’ approach as pesticides drive us towards the sixth mass extinction.
And while PAN UK is walking away from the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative, we are not abandoning the wider cause. We will continue to push the UK government to support progressive and nature-friendly farming and never stop striving for a healthier, more sustainable future. Read the joint letter from PAN UK, RSPB and Wildlife and Countryside Link to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, informing him of our resignations from the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative on our website here: http://www.pan-uk. org/pesticides-forum-and-voluntaryinitiative-resignation-letter/
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Brexit provides us with an opportunity to rethink how we grow food and a chance to provide more support to farmers working hard to protect the environment from pesticides.
A Guide to Maintaining an Organic Lawn It’s all too tempting to think of your lawn as a plain green area. Think instead of a wonderful, natural carpet, composed of thousands of separate plants, with colour, texture and wildlife. The organic lawn can feed birds, insects and soil life, as well as hosting flowers. And you can still sit or play on it – and mow it – without using unnecessary and expensive chemicals. Find out how at: http://www.pan-uk.org/an-organic-lawn
Postgraduate Diploma in Pesticide Risk Management - University of Cape Town The University of Cape Town offers a twoyear part-time (predominately distance learning) programme on Pesticide Risk Management, structured around the FAO/ WHO International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. The target audience is pesticide regulators, government officials involved in pesticide management (health, environment, agriculture), inspectors, researchers and NGO staff. For further details email: email@example.com
Who are Pesticide Action Network UK?
Contact PAN UK
We are the only UK charity focused on tackling the problems caused by pesticides and promoting safe and sustainable alternatives in agriculture, urban areas, homes and gardens.
The Brighthelm Centre North Road Brighton BN1 1YD
We work tirelessly to apply pressure to governments, regulators, policy makers, industry and retailers to reduce the impacts of harmful pesticides to both human health and the environment.
Telephone: 01273 964230 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about our work at: www.pan-uk.org