PESTICIDE NEWS The Journal of Pesticide Action Network UK
An international perspective on the health and environmental effects of pesticides
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Farmer Insights The Cocktail Effect Further protection for pollinators Pesticide-Free Towns Workshop Taking a position on agroecology
FARMER INSIGHTS: MEETING BEN WALGATE AT TILLINGHAM We have been campaigning for changes in pesticide policy for the last 25 years, and more recently have been working closely with decision-makers to ensure that Brexit doesnâ€™t result in a weakening of our current food and farming standards.
Introducing Ben at Tillingham Wine
We believe that the agricultural use of pesticides is excessive and damaging to farmers, consumers and the environment. Ideally, weâ€™d like to see a drastic reduction in pesticide use, but realise that this requires a fundamental change in the way we farm and a phased-out approach. We want to see funding going into alternative technologies, research and training to support farmers to switch away from synthetic pesticides and reward them for doing so.
We recently met up with Ben Walgate in Peasmarsh, near Rye in East Sussex. This beautiful mixed farm, dating from the 13th century, is home to grazing livestock, ancient woodland and fruit trees. In addition, Ben has co-founded Tillingham, establishing a vineyard in order to make natural and biodynamic wines.
Farmers need independent advice, support and incentives to move away from their reliance on chemicals. We have spoken to many farmers who are keen to use pesticides less, but feel that change seems insurmountable. Unfortunately, we have also spoken to many farmers who still believe that pesticides are perfectly safe, needed to feed a growing population, and not affecting the environment in any way. We hear time and time again that the people best placed to influence farmer behaviour are other farmers. We therefore want to showcase farmers who have made the change to farming without pesticides or who are reducing their pesticide use. Farmers who are embracing Integrated Pest Management; those experimenting with agroecological approaches on their farm; who have innovative ideas and who are trying something new in their cropping system design. We want to demonstrate that there are other successful ways to farm and that agroecological production can be sustainable, reduce food waste, enhance human health and biodiversity while still being profitable.
While still in the early stages â€“ Ben has been making incredible wines using bought-in grapes â€“ the farm has now been planted with 36,000 vines of different varieties and he plans to begin production using his own grapes when the vines mature in a 2021. Ben is farming without pesticides. He is making wine by adding wild yeast to his handcrushed grapes and fermenting in traditional terracotta Georgian qvevris, as well as in steel, oak and concrete vats. He is also diversifying his income by opening a restaurant, shop and overnight accommodation as well as running tours and wine tastings.
Read Ben's story, which includes his reasons for choosing to farm without pesticides, his worries for the future, and ways in which supermarkets, consumers and the government could better support him, here: https://www.pan-uk.org/ben-walgate-attillingham And if you're in the area, the farm is well worth a visit. Keep an eye on our website for further interviews with farmers ranging from those farming without, to those attempting to reduce their use of pesticides. And if you're keen to be involved then do get in touch.
This page: Wine tasting tours at Tillingham help Ben to diversify his income. Cover: Ben Walgate examining one of the 36,000 vines recently planted. Credit: Benjamin Youd
UK FAILING TO PROTECT HUMAN HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT FROM PESTICIDE COCKTAILS Our new report, in collaboration with the Soil Association, exposes for the first time how mixtures of pesticides commonly found in UK food, water and soil may be harming the health of both humans and wildlife.
The environmental evidence is equally concerning. The report reveals that 67% of the soil tested contained pesticide cocktails, as did two-thirds of samples taken from seven river catchments. Another study found that 43% of pollinators had detectable levels of two or more pesticides.
“The Cocktail Effect” reveals around a quarter of all food, and over a third of fruit and vegetables, consumed in the The report also brings together a range of UK contain pesticide cocktails, with some scientific studies showing that pesticide items containing traces of up to 14 different cocktails can be harmful even when each pesticides. It also details evidence of individual chemical appears at levels at pesticide cocktails or below its “noin the environment, observed-effect “Because of the overuse of with mixtures of concentration”. as many as ten Health effects pesticides in UK agriculture, we different chemicals revealed include are constantly exposed to a wide found in UK soil obesity and array of different chemicals which and water with the impaired liver potential to affect function, the can interact to become more toxic wildlife, such as creation of creating a ‘cocktail effect’. Yet the birds and bees. cancer cells and Government continues to assess disruption of the the safety of just one pesticide at The report warns endocrine system. that post-Brexit a time. The truth is we simply have trade deals could Studies looking at no idea of the human health and lead to a rise insects, fish and environmental impacts of longterm in the number birds echo these of pesticides results. In just exposure to hundreds of different authorised for use one example, a pesticides.” in the UK and an certain insecticide increase in the touted as a ‘safe’ Josie Cohen, PAN UK level and variety of replacement for pesticides permitted neonicotinoids and in food. Both outcomes would increase the a commonly used fungicide were shown to exposure of the public and environment to combine to be more toxic to bees than when potentially dangerous pesticide either chemical appears alone. cocktails. Despite being acknowledged as a significant In 2017, 87% of pears, 64% of apples and problem almost two decades ago, the UK a quarter of bread contained pesticide regulatory system largely fails to even cocktails. The Government’s testing data monitor, let alone protect us, from the for 2018 shows residues of 157 different cocktail effect. While the Government pesticides, including 63 known, possible or conducts extremely limited testing for probable carcinogens, and 41 suspected pesticide cocktails in food, it fails to assess endocrine disruptors. or limit the sum total of pesticides to which the environment and wildlife are exposed.
While various efforts are underway by researchers to create a system capable of monitoring the cocktail effect, it is unlikely that any will be sophisticated enough to accurately assess the health and environmental impacts of millions of different pesticide combinations in our food and landscape. The only way to minimise the risk is to hugely decrease our overall pesticide use. The report makes a number of other recommendations to the UK Government, including calling for the
introduction of a pesticide reduction target and a system for monitoring the impacts of pesticide cocktails on human health and the environment. It also urges the Government to ensure that postBrexit trade deals with non-EU countries don’t disadvantage British farmers and consumers by allowing an influx of poor quality food laden with pesticide cocktails. Read the full report on our website at: https://www.pan-uk.org/the-cocktail-effect
“The UK Government has committed to reducing pesticide use, but the support farmers need to transition away from pesticides simply isn’t in place. The Government urgently needs to support farmers to adopt nature-friendly, agroecological approaches that don’t rely on pesticides, including organic, to better protect both human health and the natural world. Brexit poses real threats to food and farming, but it also provides an opportunity to do things differently, if the right policies and legislation are put in place.” Rob Percival, Soil Association
WELCOME PROTECTION FOR OUR BEES There have been some significant decisions made recently in the European Union which will afford bees and pollinators greater protection from pesticides in the future.
The reason for not approving the renewal in this instance is due to threats to human health, notably the fact that thiacloprid has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in farmworkers, as well as being an endocrine disrupting chemical. However, as a neonicotinoid it also presents a risk to bees and the ban is therefore welcomed by those working to protect pollinators. The ban will come into force at the end of 2020 when the current licence expires.
In 2013, the Bee Guidance Document (BGD), proposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), recommended that all active substances be assessed against a set of criteria that would look specifically at their potential for harming bees. Drawn up following the initial temporary ban of three bee toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, the original proposals have since been diluted as a result of pesticide industry lobbying that has been supported by 16 unnamed EU Member States – meaning that the BGD as it currently stands would not deliver the necessary protections for bees that was first envisioned.
Whilst all of this is welcome news for pollinators it does highlight some serious shortcomings within the regulatory system, notably the huge delay between seeing a problem and taking action. The harmful effects of neonicotinoids to bees has been known and documented for over 15 years, but it took until 2013 to get a partial ban on just three of them and a further six years to make that a permanent and full ban – again for only three of them. Similarly the BGD was first put forward in 2013 when it was recognised that the current risk assessment system for pesticides was not fit for purpose and that a much more robust method for assessing risks to bees and pollinators was required. Sadly, concerted efforts from the pesticide industry, backed up by some EU Member States, has meant that bees in general are no more protected from the harms associated with pesticide use than they were in 2013, despite recognition that this should be a priority.
However, this week, the European Parliament has voted to pass a resolution objecting to the latest watered-down version of the BGD. The resolution passed with 533 in favour, 67 against and 100 abstentions. This sends a clear message to both the Commission and Member States that the people of Europe want to see the highest protection for bees and other pollinators. Elected officials should be putting the wellbeing of bees and pollinators ahead of the profits of the pesticide industry. It is hoped that this will be the start of a new process that will result in the adoption of a thorough risk assessment for all pesticide active substance that will clearly err on the precautionary side when it comes to threats to bee and pollinator health.
Also, by tackling pesticides one active at a time, we are avoiding the bulk of the problem. If we are really serious about protecting our pollinators, environment and health then we need a systematic change in our approach to pesticide use and regulation. This can only be achieved by reducing pesticide use across the board, employing an ultra-precautionary approach to the approval of pesticides that might pose a risk to bees and pollinators and a system for reacting immediately to problems as soon as they are identified.
Also this week, a significant meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) took place where it was agreed that the relicensing of the bee toxic neonicotinoid, thiacloprid would not be approved. Thiacloprid, produced by Bayer, had not been included in the neonicotinoid ban earlier this year as it was deemed to be an ‘acceptable’ risk to bees.
BRINGING PESTICIDE-FREE TOWNS CAMPAIGNERS TOGETHER In September, PAN UK ran an event for Pesticide-Free Towns campaigners to give them an opportunity to share learnings and strengthen the network of campaigners from different parts of the country. It was encouraging to hear updates about the work going on, from Newcastle to Essex, Hampshire and beyond. Campaigners have become involved for different reasons and each came from a different walk of life, demonstrating the wide-reaching nature of this campaig and how the systematic use of pesticides affects us all.
effectiveness. However, she is convinced that the tide is turning. We were also joined by Hackney Coucillor, Jon Burke, who led a discussion on how to (and how no to) engage constructively with your council. He has been leading efforts in Hackney Borough Council to severely reduce the use of pesticides, such as cutting their use in areas that donâ€™t need them because of heavy footfall, and running a trial area in the borough where no weeding of any kind- chemical or non-chemical- will take place, to measure the impacts.
We were very happy to welcome Islington Councillor and Greater London Assembly Member, Caroline Russell, to the event. Caroline spoke about her motion to stop the spraying of glyphosate on Greater London Authority Land and the Transport for London estate. She has also been pushing this issue within her own borough council for years, but has struggled to gain the support needed due to concerns over cost and
Finally, Fiona Scimone Paterson who is a campaigner and formal parish councillor, led the group in a discussion about why we all came to care about this issue. She is making incredible progress at parish, district and county level to raise awareness of the issue among constituents, ranging from raising awareness with her GP to educating staff at her local supermarket. .
The Pesticide-Free Towns campaign is led by volunteers who have the local knowledge and the democratic clout to lobby their councils and to mobilise their communities. What works best about this model of campaigning is that there are many diverse voices with different expertise, experiences, ages and backgrounds who can tailor their local campaign to the area, and ultimately have a greater impact.
Cambridge City Council to severely restrict the use of pesticides in parks and green spaces; and a vote by Trafford council to phase out herbicide use. Perhaps the UK is heading in the direction of our European neighbours? In France, for example, the government banned all non-agricultural pesticides in early 2019. This was after years of towns and cities taking it upon themselves to ban the use of pesticides in their public spaces. This includes Paris, which has been using nonchemical methods to manage even their most impeccable and pristine gardens, like the Jardin des Tuileries, for the past 10 years.
And itâ€™s growing: there are over 60 active campaigns across the country who are taking to the streets to do their own weeding, lobbying their councils and running community events to rid their playgrounds, schools, parks and pavements of herbicides
Whilst biodiversity decline is coming to the fore as one of the greatest challenges of our generation, surely a few extra weeds can be tolerated around our urban spaces, giving some of our wildlife a better chance at survival.
In the last six months alone, there has been: a motion in Surrey to cut the use of pesticides and preserve hedge rows; a commitment in Brighton City Council to phase out pesticides; a vote by the Greater London Assembly to stop the spraying of glyphosate on GLA land and TfL land; trials by Cornwall County Council on alternatives and ways to phase pesticides out; a vote by
â€œIt really does feel as if the campaign is breaking through as more and more councils start to take action, building a picture of what is achievable.â€? Caroline Russell, Islington Councillor and Greater London Assembly Member
If you'd like to get involved, or start your own campaign, please find details on our website at: www.pan-uk.org/pesticide-free
PAN INTERNATIONAL POSITION PAPER ON AGROECOLOGY Pesticide-intensive agricultural systems have pervaded communities around the world, bringing severe harm to health, livelihoods and ecosystems. Global momentum is building to replace highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) with agroecology â€” a climate-resilient, equitable, productive, economically viable and ecologically sustainable approach to farming that integrates cutting edge science with local and indigenous knowledge and practice, and a commitment to the political approach of food sovereignty. The Pesticide Action Network views agroecology as the solution to highly hazardous pesticides and the paper describes five guiding principles behind agroecology and the multiple co-benefits that arise from adopting this transformative approach to food and farming. The paper connects agroecology's multifunctional benefits with each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It recommends the redirection of policy, research, institutional and investment priorities to facilitate urgently needed national and global transition away from dependence on hazardous pesticides and towards establishment of the robust, adaptive and sustainable systems that agroecology offers. Read the paper in full at: www.panna.org/resources/agroecology-solution-highly-hazardous-pesticides
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: email@example.com
Find out more about our work at: www.pan-uk.org