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29 Nov 2007 : Column 620W—continued

Nitrate Sensitive Areas

Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what studies have been (a) conducted and (b) assessed by his Department on nitrate levels in (i) rivers and (ii) other sensitive areas. [166778]

Mr. Woolas: The Nitrates Directive requires that a review of designations is carried out at least every four years. The implications from the most recent review are considered in a DEFRA consultation, issued in August 2007.

The consultation exercise proposes new measures to deal with nitrogen pollution from agricultural sources, and sets out the supporting evidence and other material. The closing date for comments is 13 December 2007.

Nitrates: Concrete

Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessments he has made of the effect on the environment of the use of concrete to prevent the leakage of nitrates into the ground. [166781]

Mr. Woolas: We have not made an assessment of the impact on the environment of constructing concrete platforms for this purpose.


Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what pesticides have been banned for use (a) for reasons of public health and (b) for other reasons. [166777]

Mr. Woolas: The following active substances are prohibited from use in plant protection products anywhere in the European Community because of their risks to health or the environment:

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In addition, many pesticide active substances have been withdrawn from use following reviews conducted both within the UK and by the European Community.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what effect the Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation has had on crop prices; and if he will make a statement. [167853]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 26 November 2007]: As part of the Government’s Climate Change programme, a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) will be introduced in 2008. It will require transport fuel suppliers to ensure that 5 per cent. of their fuel sales are from a renewable source by 2010.

It is unlikely that the RTFO has had any discernable effect on crop prices to date. Current high cereals prices are due to global factors, including two successive lower world wheat harvests, low global stocks and increased demand for cereals from the food, feed and fuels sectors. Growing global demand for biofuels can be expected to increase crop prices but also the supply of crops in the future.

Analysis by the European Commission assessing the impact of the 10 per cent. (by energy) biofuel target for 2020 indicates that prices for agricultural raw materials in the European Union (EU) would increase by 3 per cent. to 6 per cent. for cereals and 5 per cent. to 18 per cent. for oilseeds. This took into account, potential in the EU to increase production in response to additional demand, and a future contribution from second generation biofuels which can use non-food feedstocks, including waste.

The Government recognise that a balance is needed between using available land for food and non-food purposes. We will monitor how markets are affected by growing biofuel demand and will tailor policies accordingly.

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Rural Payments Agency: Aviation

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost of air travel by officials of the Rural Payments Agency was in 2006-07; and how much carbon dioxide was offset in relation to these flights. [164508]

Jonathan Shaw: The cost of air travel by Rural Payment Agency (RPA) officials in 2006-07 was £344,921.84.

While the RPA does not currently offset its carbon emissions it plans to do so in the near future and is actively looking at the possibility of backdating this offsetting using the fund being developed by DEFRA. More generally, the RPA takes sustainable development issues seriously. In 2006 all main RPA sites achieved the ISO 14001 environmental management standard and currently RPA is developing a revised set of targets for its sustainable development action plan.

Sheep Dipping

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research the Government is (a) commissioning and (b) funding on alternatives to organophosphate sheep dip. [168059]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA and the Scottish Government have been funding research into alternatives to conventional veterinary medicines for control of sheep scab for several years. The projects and costs are listed in the following table.

Projects to investigate the alternatives to conventional sheep dips for the control of scab

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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice his Department makes available on the use of organophosphate sheep dip. [168060]

Jonathan Shaw: The DEFRA, Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and Environment Agency (EA) websites provide advice on the use and disposal of sheep dip.

Advice from VMD and the EA covers:

Advice from DEFRA covers the Groundwater Protection Code—Use and disposal of sheep dip compounds.

Both the VMD and EA websites include links to the Pollution Reduction Programme (PRP) which promotes the safe use of sheep dips.

The VMD website also contains a link to the HSE document AS29 entitled Sheep Dipping—Advice for Farmers and Others involved in Dipping Sheep.

In addition to the website information, an accompanying safety checklist poster must be supplied to each purchaser of sheep dip products at the time of purchase. Also, a NFU poster ‘Stop every drop’, which was produced as a direct result of the joint VMD/EA Pollution Reduction Plan has been sent to all 51,000 sheep farmers on the British Wool Marketing Board’s database.

The relevant links are as follows:

Groundwater Protection Code:



Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will commission research jointly with the Department of Health looking into genetic susceptibility to nervous disorders as a result of using organophosphate sheep dips. [168061]

Jonathan Shaw: The Government has funded a number of research projects into the possible effects in humans of exposure to organophosphates (OPs), in particular OP based sheep dips. This research forms a key part of the Government’s four point plan on OPs announced in December 1999.

The research was commissioned following the 1999 Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) report entitled “Organophosphates” in which five
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recommendations for further research were made. The Government have asked COT

In addition, Government R and D funds have also been used to commission several other projects on OPs and human health.

On genetic susceptibility, COT recommended that research should be undertaken to show whether people with chronic disabling illness that is suspected of being related to OPs differ metabolically from the general population. The project on the genetic variation in susceptibility to chronic effects of organophosphate exposure has been completed and the final report is on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website:

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