Insects and Insecticides

October 2012

Pesticide Action Network UK - Written submission to the Environment Audit Committee inquiry into the effects of pesticides on biodiversity

The Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) is the only charity in the UK that works on all aspects of global pesticide issues. PAN UK has been operating for over 25 years and is part of a global network of like minded organisations concerned about the effects pesticide are having on human health and the environment. The network as a whole and PAN UK in particular is noted for its scientific robustness and attention to detail in all aspects related to the use and / or abuse of pesticides. PAN UK is actively involved in a range of different fora in the UK including the Pesticide Forum and its sub groups and we have on many occasions submitted information to other bodies including the Advisory Committee on Pesticides and government Ministers over the years. PAN UK works closely with PAN Europe on regulatory and policy issues at EU level.

Please note that PAN UK has already submitted a series of fact sheets to the inquiry that cover the complete range of issues related to the effects of pesticides on bees and other pollinators. Much of the scientific evidence that we use to back our approach is contained with or referenced in those documents. This submission complements those fact sheets and should be read in conjunction with them.

This submission will look specifically at two areas;

· The current Defra position in regard to neonicotinoid pesticides and the effect that they are or might be having on bees and other pollinator species in the UK and

· The draft UK National Action Plan on pesticides that could help to mitigate threats to bees and other pollinators in the UK.

PAN UK comments on Defra statement Neonicotinoid insecticides and bees: the state of the science and the regulatory response, 13th September 2012

(http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13818-neonicotinoid-bees-20120918.pdf)

There are a number of key points that PAN UK would like to highlight in this response. Our overarching concern is that given the growing weight of independent evidence of the potential for harm from neonicotinoid pesticides, Defra and the UK regulatory authorities are not taking a sufficiently precautionary approach. This is particularly worrying given the serious economic and biodiversity consequences that a severe loss in pollinators would bring to the UK as a whole. We are also concerned that Defra is not prepared to implement measures within its new National Action Plan on pesticides to deliver overall reductions in the use of pesticides in the agriculture and amenity sectors and to ensure that biodiversity in the UK is adequately protected from the threats posed by pesticide use.

Methodological shortcomings in current testing by pesticide companies

PAN UK questions Defra’s assurances that industry testing of neonicotinoids is sufficient and satisfactory in addressing all the potential threats posed by neonicotinoid insecticides. We believe, as does the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in its Opinion of May 2012, that there are serious methodological shortcomings in this type of study. For example, the tests focus on short term, acute toxicity to adult worker bees and mainly ignore chronic toxicity and sub-lethal effects on bee behaviour, on larvae and on hive overwintering. We are also concerned that there is a lack of transparency and availability for independent review of factors such as study design, methods and statistical analysis as much of the data submitted by pesticide companies for regulatory purposes is not in the public domain. This approach makes it impossible for concerned stakeholders to see and critique study methods, assumptions, results and the criteria used by decision makers to interpret studies’ data and conclusions. These issues are important because of the many difficulties in designing robust and realistic studies to understand how regular, low dose exposure to pesticide traces in nectar and pollen may affect the highly complex structure of honey and other social bees at colony level. PAN UK’s factsheets nos. 2 and 3 discuss these scientific and risk assessment difficulties in detail. Aspects of independent science and the undue influence of industry experts on risk assessment methodology are discussed in factsheet no.8

Implications for neonicotinoid products currently approved

PAN UK is concerned about the approach that Defra is taking to address the problems. On the one hand it now admits that there are several areas in the current risk assessment procedures which need to be revised, yet on the other hand states that current UK regulatory studies are adequate to reach a conclusion of ‘no gross effects’ in exposed hives. The wording in the Defra response indicates that action on changes to the risk assessment is imminent. This would be welcome, however, even if any changes are instituted, it is not clear whether the new risk assessment process will apply to currently approved products, including those containing the controversial neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam or only to new products seeking future approval. It is absolutely essential that all neonicotinoid products currently approved must be re-tested as the top priority as soon as the new EU testing regime is finalised (scheduled for early 2013). We suggest that they be removed from sale until they have been reassessed and shown to be safe. Without such a commitment we could see products that may well fail the new risk assessment requirements continue in use until their UK approvals are due for renewal, which in some cases could be as late as 2021!

Different regulatory conclusions drawn in other EU countries

PAN UK would draw the EAC’s attention to the different conclusions drawn by different national regulatory authorities across Europe following review of the same evidence from the scientific literature. Whilst Defra have clearly decided that no action needs to be taken in the short term, the French regulatory authorities have taken a different view and have, for some years, instituted further controls and restrictions on some neonicotinoids. Following the publication of the Henry et al. and Whitehorn et al. studies, in March this year, the French suspended the approval for the use of thiamethoxam for oilseed rape (OSR) seed treatments in June 2012. We do not understand why Defra came to a different conclusion, particularly as the cropping systems for OSR are similar in both countries. The Italian authorities, and to some extent, the German authorities have also adopted different approaches to the UK in regard to suspensions. At the very least, this is a clear indication of the scientific uncertainties that exist about the impacts of neonicotinoids and PAN UK believes that this uncertainty justifies a far more precautionary approach from the UK.

This sense that the UK has a far too complacent approach is further highlighted by the different stance of the European Commission. DG Sanco, responsible for pesticide regulation, has acknowledged that there is a growing body of evidence suggesting a link between bee diseases and pesticides. The European parliament has also been very vocal in calling for a timeframe for the withdrawal in the longer term of all neurotoxic pesticides. In 2011 they called for an immediate review of all approved neonicotinoids once improved risk assessment protocols have been developed.

Need for a more open assessment of independent scientific findings

A common response from Defra to new studies that indicate problems is to single out shortcomings in the studies or dismiss them because they do not address "real life" scenarios. We do agree that there are uncertainties inherent in some studies (see factsheets 2 and 3) however, we do not believe that this is a valid reason for simply discarding the findings from independent studies, especially as the current regulatory studies required are widely acknowledged to be deeply flawed. In our view, important findings from independent scientists should rather be a spur for further research and prompt greater precaution.

Defra’s caveats about the level of "real-life" and "field realistic" exposure of several independent studies are of great concern to PAN UK. A basic element of the precautionary principle is that "Regulatory controls should incorporate a margin of safety; activities should be limited below the level at which no adverse effect has been observed or predicted " 1 (emphasis added) . Most of the studies rather dismissed by Defra clearly show that harm to pollinators could occur at field-relevant levels of exposure. Over the last 18 months, more scientists are now voicing concerns about the role of pesticides in pollinator declines, especially in relation to increased susceptibility to bee diseases and parasites. These subtle interactions and the ‘cocktail’ effect of exposure to many different pesticide residues in the foraging environment are very poorly understood, yet Defra seems not to factor them into their conclusions.

PAN UK would like to see a broader, open and more participatory evaluation process to see where consensus lies on what the different studies contribute and to identify the pros and cons of each study in its design, analysis and interpretation of the results.

We agree with many of the comments raised by CRD/Defra over recent independent studies, for example, about the weak design and irrelevance of one widely publicised US study by Lu et al (2012) on replication of Colony Collapse Disorder. However, we totally disagree with the Defra conclusion that overall the four most publicised studies published this year (Henry et al, 2012; Whitehorn et al, 2012; Pettis et al, 2012; Lu et al 2012) do not provide enough new evidence to warrant any change to the regulatory system. Since Defra and CRD’s response, another extremely relevant and robust study has been published by Gill et al (2012, in Nature) from British universities on bumblebees exposed to a combination of a neonicotinoid and a commonly used pyrethroid insecticide, documenting harmful effects on individual bees and on colony level performance. A useful commentary on this paper and the regulatory questions it raises was published in the News & Views section of Nature (Osborne, 2012).

Dealing with scientific uncertainties: Late lessons from early warnings

While no single study alone is likely to deliver the ‘killer facts’ in such a complex issue, many of the more recent and well-designed studies are contributing important pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of pollinator declines. PAN UK agrees that we need more research, especially on exposure patterns in the UK context, but we mustn’t let this become an excuse for avoiding or delaying tough regulatory decisions. The agrochemical industry always play the ‘more research’ card but we know from analyses of earlier environmental policy cases involving scientific uncertainty and high stakes, that earlier decisive action should have been taken- see the European Environment Agency’s illuminating Late Lessons from Early Warnings report (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/environmental_issue_report_2001_22). Volume 2 of Late Lessons is now published and includes a useful chapter on the controversial debates in France over the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid and impacts on bees, illustrating the problems that arise when vested interests and incorrect value judgements cloud the risk assessment process. See http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/false-positives-2013-late-lessons-volume2

It is not just the position of Defra that PAN UK takes issue with but also that of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP), particularly their statements that "the current risk assessments are secure" and that "there is no evidence as yet of neonicotinoid impacts on bees in the UK". Again this displays a very complacent attitude: are we to wait for there to be an impact on bees in the UK before we take action? We are not aware of any relevant field studies that have been undertaken in the UK that have appropriate methodology and adequate statistical power and look at long term exposure and colony health which would allow them to draw that conclusion. The only data that we do have to our knowledge is in the studies undertaken by the manufacturers which, as already mentioned, have been called into question by EFSA. Our conclusion is that the ACP are confusing ‘absence of evidence’ with ‘evidence of absence of impact’!

Supporting farmers to shift to safer and more sustainable pest management

If, as PAN UK urges, the UK does decide to restrict neonicotinoid use, then action is needed now to support farmers and other users to shift to safer, effective and more sustainable methods of managing the pests targeted by current neonicotinoid product use. Lessons from the US and Italy show that farmers have become increasingly dependent on use of neonicotinoid seed treatments as ‘insurance’ against possible pest attack. Entomologists in both countries have warned that ‘insurance’ applications run counter to one of the fundamental principles of Integrated Pest Management- pesticide interventions should only be made on the basis of field monitoring and when the level of pest incidence is likely to cause economic damage to the crop, on a particular field in a particular season. In the Italian case in maize, researchers found that maize pests were not problematic in fields sown with untreated seed and yields were not effected, showing that most, if not all of the time, these treatments are simply not needed. More details of the US and Italian cases and discussion of pest management alternatives are in our factsheets nos. 5 and 6.

Defra, the Pesticides Forum and the farming sector should take a much more proactive approach to looking at current levels of dependency on neonicotinoids, the actual, rather than perceived, need for treatment as ‘insurance’ and ways to promote more effective and comprehensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM). PAN UK has outlined a concept note for a pilot scoping study to explore what a British oilseed rape IPM strategy without neonicotinoids might look like.

References

Gill, RJ, Ramoz-Rodriguez, O and Raine, NE. (2012) Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees. Nature http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11585

Henry, M, Beguin, M, Requier, F, Rollin, O, Odoux, J-F, Aupinel, P, Aptel, J, Tchamitchian, S and Decourtye, A. (2012) A common pesticide decreases foraging success and survival in honey bees. Science Express 10.1126/science.1215039

Lu, C., Warchol, KM and Callahan, RA. (2012) In situ replication of honey bee colony collapse disorder. Bulletin of Insectology 65 (1) ISSN 1721-8861

Osborne, JL. (2012) Bumblebees and pesticides. A study showing the effects of two pesticides on bumblebees highlights the need for risk assessments to consider multiple species and the complex chain of factors that determines insect exposure to chemicals. News and Views, Nature doi.10.1038/nature11637,

Pettis, JS, van Engelsdorp, D, Johnson, J and Dively, G. (2012) Pesticide exposure in honey bees results in increased levels of the gut pathogen Nosema . Naturwissenschaften DOI 10.1007/s00114-011-0881-1

Whitehorn, PR, O’Connor, S, Wackers, FL and Goulson, D. ( 2012) Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces bumblebee colony growth and queen production. Science Express 10.1126/science.1215025

^   Stewart, R.B. (2002). "Environmental Regulatory Decision Making Under Uncertainty".   Research in Law and Economics   20 : 76

In regard to the draft UK National Action Plan on pesticides

Implementation of the new EU Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides and the development of the new National Action Plan (NAP) on pesticides could be a real opportunity to develop a range of measures that would reduce the use of pesticides throughout the UK and consequently reduce negative effects on biodiversity from pesticides.

However, it is the opinion of PAN UK that Defra in drawing up the draft NAP has failed to include measures that would help protect the UK’s biodiversity in any meaningful sense. Measures that PAN UK has urged Defra for some years  to introduce, but which have been ignored, include:

· restrictions on the use of pesticides in certain areas such as parks, schools and hospitals

· a targeted phase out or reduction in use of certain pesticides

· a fully developed plan for the promotion of Integrated Pest Management

· measures to adequately protect water sources from pollution by pesticides.

Included as an annex to this document is the submission by a group of NGOs, including PAN UK, to the recent public consultation on the development of the NAP that was undertaken by Defra. In it you will see a range of concerns outlined and suggestions for ways in which the NAP could be strengthened to provide better protection for biodiversity to the from the multiple threats associated with pesticide use in the UK.

Annex 1

Biodiversity and Pesticides Group: National Action Plan consultation response

This consultation response is co-authored by a group of environmental NGOs working together to ensure that plant protection products have minimal impacts on biodiversity in the UK.  This document, therefore, addresses measures required for the adequate protection of biodiversity and the environment only. However, many of the measures set out here would also contribute to the aim of reducing risks to human health. This response sets out those areas of strong mutual concern to these organisations. Some organisation will also submit their own response as different organisations do have different areas of focus and expertise.

The NGOs that support this document are:

· Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust

· Bumblebee Conservation Trust

· Butterfly Conservation

· ClientEarth

· ChemTrust

· Friends of the Earth

· Pesticide Action Network UK

· The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Overarching comments

The Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) [1] requires the UK to adopt a National Action Plan (NAP). The overall intention [2] is that NAPs should be used to "facilitate the implementation" of the SUD. Article 4 of the SUD sets out in some detail the purpose and required scope of a NAP. The draft UK National Action Plan (NAP) is useful in that it summarises measures currently in place to facilitate sustainable pesticide use. Many of these measures have had some success in meeting their specific aims and providing some environmental protection. However, the SUD is designed to move beyond the status quo. It establishes a framework to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides and specifies two key features underpinning the operation of that framework: one of these is the reduction of the risks AND impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment; the other is promoting the use of integrated pest management AND of alternative approaches or techniques, such as non-chemical approaches to pesticides [3] . It is our view that the draft NAP as it currently stands is wholly inadequate to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides in the UK. This is backed up by current evidence, which shows that current pesticide use is not sustainable and that current measures are insufficient to move the industry in a truly sustainable direction. For example, the Pesticides Forum reports that pesticides remain a significant pollutant of waterways, and that populations of birds known to be indirectly affected by pesticides continue to decline [4] . The draft NAP also fails to clearly articulate how the UK intends to use the mechanisms and procedures required by the SUD in order to meet its stated objectives. Existing measures need to be built upon and improved, and, where necessary, replaced by new approaches, via effective and ambitious action, which is both targeted and measured, that will lead to more sustainable pest control systems with less pesticide reliance in UK.

Quantitative objectives, targets, measures and timetables

The setting of quantitative objectives, targets, measures and timetables is a requirement of the NAP in the SUD [5] ; however, currently these components are not included in the draft UK NAP. These components are essential to facilitate effective delivery as well as understanding of benefits and impacts of different measures, to allow these measures to be improved upon in the future. Without them, the plan will be ineffective and very weak and not compliant with the SUD. Furthermore, the draft NAP heavily relies on voluntary initiatives. Clear targets are crucial to the success of such initiatives, so that all parties know what they are working towards and so that success can be evaluated. Voluntary initiatives require close monitoring along with consequences of non-compliance, to reduce the risk of free-riding and failure to reach environmental targets. Experience and research [6] shows such initiatives are only really successful when they are backed up by the possibility of regulation. Neither the Campaign for the Farmed Environment nor the Voluntary Initiative on pesticides would have got off the ground in the absence of the real possibility of stricter alternatives (regulation on set-aside and a tax on pesticide use respectively).

Addition to NAP: quantitative objectives, targets, measures and timetables added to all sections of the draft NAP.

Active substances of particular concern

The SUD [7] requires Member States to act in relation to active substances of particular concern. A NAP is to include indicators for monitoring use, especially if alternatives are available, and to set reduction targets and timetables. The SUD also requires identification [8] of trends in use of certain active substances and identification of priority items which require particular attention. The SUD specifically notes the position of active substances which, whilst currently approved, will not meet relevant criteria when renewal is sought. [9] However, this area has not been addressed by the draft UK NAP. The NAP should establish a system for monitoring and instigating research on plant protection products containing active substances of particular concern, establishing timetables and targets for the reduction of their use and a shift to alternatives; and so take a precautionary approach to potential impacts. This is key to NGOs, the public and other stakeholders having confidence in the UK government’s ability to respond where increasing scientific evidence of environmental impact accrues. For example, in the case of neonicotinoid pesticides, despite a growing body of robust science indicating cause for concern, the government does not have a clear plan to mitigate the impacts of these pesticides and promote the use of suitable alternatives. As a result, many see the government as dragging their feet on the issue and risking damage to our fragile environment.

Addition to NAP: set up a system based on collating existing evidence, or the gathering of new evidence where necessary, to identify products containing active substances of particular concern, monitor their use, and establish timetables and targets for the reduction of their use and a shift to alternatives.

Indicators

Currently, the amount of pesticide applied in terms of weight of active substance is used as an indicator of pesticide use. However, weight applied is not a meaningful indicator because it does not reflect the different characteristics (e.g. toxicity) of different active substances. The Bichel Committee [10] states that the treatment frequency index is considered the best indicator of the environmental burden. The treatment frequency index expresses the average number of times per year agricultural land can be treated with the quantity of pesticides sold, assuming that they are used in the prescribed normal dosages.

Addition to NAP: tonnes of active substance should be replaced as an indicator by the ‘treatment frequency index’ to more accurately demonstrate environmental burden.

As noted in the draft NAP, the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) gives information about acute poisoning incidents, usually resulting from irresponsible use of pesticides. It is important to gather and act upon this information to enforce the correct use of pesticides. However, more relevant to the overall impact of pesticides on wildlife are sub-lethal, chronic effects that may occur even when pesticides are being used according to good practice. The Farmland Bird Index, reported by the Pesticides Forum as a headline indicator, is the best currently available dataset for this purpose. However, the impact of pesticides on these birds is indirect (by removing food sources), and bird populations are also affected by many other factors. There is a need for additional indicators that more directly reflect the impact of pesticides on wildlife, for example on pollinating insects or arable weeds.

The recent evidence showing the vulnerability of pollinator species to pesticides, particularly systemic pesticides, would make them ideal to assess chronic and sub lethal impacts. The importance of pollinators to food security and the agricultural economy are further reasons for their inclusion. Insects pollinate many high value food crops and it would cost UK farmers at least £1.8 billion a year to replace pollination services provided by insects with hand pollination [11] . There are a number of insect pollinator surveys that could be adapted e.g. the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and the Bumblebee Walk.

Addition to NAP: the development of an indicator of direct impacts on wildlife is needed. A working group should be formed to look at how existing pollinator monitoring schemes and arable weeds could be used to provide a new indicator.

The development of resistance in pest populations is an indication that pesticide use is not sustainable, since it means that future control of a particular pest will require higher application rates or new active substances. Integrated Pest Management (IPM), by using a range of pest control strategies and resorting to chemicals only when necessary, should minimise the emergence of resistance. Therefore, an indicator or indicators that reflected the prevalence of resistance to certain chemicals in pest populations would provide useful information about the successful roll-out of IPM approaches. These datasets are already available and being collected: the Resistance Action Groups [12] actively monitor resistance in fungi, insects, rodents and weeds and maintain resistance matrices of known problems. These datasets could be used to generate a suitable indicator or indicators.

Addition to NAP: the development of a resistance indicator to help assess the effectiveness of IPM.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

IPM is at the heart of the SUD. It requires that Member States "take all necessary measures to promote low pesticide-input pest management, giving wherever possible priority to non-chemical methods" [13] . It has the potential to simultaneously improve pest control while helping farming to become more sustainable and resilient overall. From the point of view of individual farmers, it may help them to reduce their costs and avoid or overcome problems of pesticide resistance.

The SUD also provides [14] that the NAP must also set up objectives, targets, measures and timetables to "encourage the development and introduction of integrated pest management and of alternative approaches or techniques in order to reduce dependency on the use of pesticides". The draft UK NAP is very weak in this area; it asserts that many users adopt practices which are in line with the principles of IPM. However, IPM is a complete system for pest and disease management made up of a suite of different techniques. Whilst it is acknowledged that UK farmers do adopt some IPM techniques, it is also fair to say that, as a whole, effective IPM implementation is generally low. Pesticide use is on the rise on some crops and it is clear that IPM is not being used widely enough. For example, according to FERA data insecticide application rates rose 26% on oilseeds and 295% on strawberries between 2005 and 2010.

Research in the UK by the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme [15] and funded by DEFRA clearly shows that farmers will adopt some, but not the complete range of, techniques that would deliver really effective IPM. As effective IPM cannot be delivered by uptake of one or two techniques in isolation. There is a need for a clear definition of what constitutes IPM and recognition that it is a stepwise approach with a need for farmers to build on and add to the techniques that they adopt. Also, without a clear definition of IPM and a means of measuring to what extent IPM is being adopted, it will be difficult to assess compliance with the requirements of the SUD. Adoption of both of these things would enable progress and achievements to be clearly demonstrated at both national scale and on individual farms.

Successful IPM example - Demark

The Danish experience offers a clear vision of what is required by farmers to develop their IPM approach and also shows the benefits of IPM in reducing use of and reliance on pesticides. Pesticide use reduction was introduced in Denmark in 1986 by the first governmental Pesticide Action Plan as a response to a major increase in the use of pesticides and a serious decline in farmland wildlife in the beginning of the 1980’s. The wild plant diversity in farmland, for example, decreased by 60% from 1970 to 1990, and the number of partridges fell by 70% from 1970 to 1985.

One of the key measures of the Danish plan was the development of advisory services for farmers. These advisory services offered farmers information on the correct use of pesticides, the feasibility of limiting use through changes in crop rotation, choice of seed varieties, mechanical and biological control, assessment of needs and improved spraying techniques. Importance was placed on financial as well as environmental considerations so it was clear where the benefits of reductions on pesticide use were being felt.

A weekly newsletter was sent out to 20,000 farmers discussing issues such as pesticide products, preventive measures against insects, damage thresholds and the use of reduced doses. Information was also provided to farmers on field trips. The Danish Agricultural Advisory Service estimated in 1997 that the average dose of fungicides applied by their members was about 35% of the pesticide label recommended dose, in contrast to 90% in 1987 – a very clear reduction in use and fully in line with the goals of the SUD.

The IPM plan currently under development represents an opportunity to meet many of the Directive’s requirements for IPM. To achieve this, the plan should offer farmers a clear benchmark for their current performance, along with recommendations to improve and links to the resources available to help with this. A requirement to achieve a certain standard of IPM could be incorporated into existing assurance schemes as an incentive for farmers to complete the plan and implement improvements in their pest management strategies. Organic farming makes minimal use of pesticides and has clear benefits for biodiversity. Techniques used in organic farming, for example, measures to develop fertile soils and encourage natural enemies of pest species, should be incorporated into the IPM toolkit used by conventional farmers.

Addition to NAP:

· Provide a clear definition of IPM that builds on the principles set out in Annex 3 of the SUD

· Develop crop and sector-specific IPM protocols

· Provide extension and outreach services to assist farmers in implementing IPM, this could be done through the existing Voluntary Initiative (VI)

· Integrate IPM options into agri-environment schemes e.g.: beneficial insect package

· Based on the above incorporate mandatory training in IPM for all sectors into assurance schemes

Water Protection

As previously highlighted, pesticides are a significant water pollutant; for example, causing a risk of non-compliance in 15% of all surface water DrWPAs in England and Wales and 1.4% in Scotland [16] . A wide range of voluntary measures are currently being implemented to safeguard waters from pesticide pollution. Many initiatives, such as Catchment Sensitive Farming, focus only on areas which have existing problems and may neglect areas which are vulnerable, e.g. where a key species or habitat of conservation importance is present. Also, there seems to be limited integration of different initiatives. We, therefore, propose ‘voluntary safeguard zones’ as a method of bringing together measures in our most vulnerable water areas and ensuring better integration of measures specific to the water issue. This method could be applied to lakes, ditches, wetlands, ponds etc as well as rivers.

Voluntary safeguard zones would protect pesticide vulnerable waterbodies, particularly catchments designated under the Water Framework Directive ("WFD") or the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. This measure should be backed by a proposal for regulation should a voluntary approach prove unsuccessful. Each safeguard zone would have a series of requirements dependent on the specific vulnerability of that catchment, the species and habitats present and the specific problem in that catchment (e.g. a particular pesticide causing WFD non-compliance). These safeguard zones could be incorporated into River Basin Management Plans as part of the WFD, as well as other plans, such as regional biodiversity plans or locally-determined Nature Improvement Areas. They could include a range of measures such as Catchment Sensitive Farming and agri-environment as well as situation specific measures. Voluntary safeguard zones should be well supported by advice, training and assessments through integration with existing schemes and initiatives.

Species example – The Depressed River Mussel (Pseudanodonta complanata)

The Depressed river mussel is on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan list and has declined rapidly in the UK. It has a global threatened status of Vulnerable (IUCN), meaning it is at risk of extinction globally. High levels of Metaldehyde were found in Hurleston Water Treatment Works. Water is taken from a canal where the Depressed river mussel is found. There were worries that if no action was taken, this would result in a loss of the population completely. The Environment Agency responded by producing an information sheet explaining to local farmers about the mussel and reminding them of best practice when using Metaldehyde. This is one example of an area that would be suitable for a ‘Voluntary Safeguard Zone’. A series of measures using a range of initiatives could be used to protect this watercourse and its population of Depressed river mussel in the long term.

Addition to NAP: Establishment of ‘voluntary safeguard zones’, which would combine a range of initiatives in our most vulnerable water areas

Specific areas

The SUD requires that Member States give special attention to the use of pesticides in specific areas, including protected areas as defined under the Birds and Habitats Directives (SPAs and SACs) and areas used by the general public. This is not satisfactorily addressed in the NAP.

Areas designated for biodiversity

The PPP (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 specify only that when pesticides are used in protected areas, the amount used and frequency of use must be as low as practically possible. This does not offer any protection above and beyond what should be universally practiced under an IPM approach. Protection also needs to go beyond the protected areas themselves: e.g. aquatic sites are affected by activities in the whole catchment. We believe that voluntary safeguard zones (see water protection section for detail) should be implemented for SPAs and SACs and other biodiverse areas that may be vulnerable to impacts of pesticides, backed by a proposal for regulation should a voluntary approach prove unsuccessful.

Addition to NAP: Establishment of ‘Voluntary safeguard zones’, which would combine a range of initiatives in our most vulnerable SPAs and SACs and other biodiverse areas

An appropriate mechanism exists to monitor and control the impacts of pesticides on SPAs and SACs in the UK in the form of the SSSI system (ASSI in Northern Ireland). Information available on the condition of English SSSIs [17] indicates that pest control practices may be a contributory factor in the adverse condition of some sites: water pollution from agriculture/ run off is cited as a factor for 281 sites, inappropriate weed control for 163, inappropriate pest control for 14, and pesticide/herbicide use is specified in 2 cases. The condition of SSSIs is monitored and assessed according to the individual management requirements and features of each site, so to more accurately assess the impacts of pest control on SSSIs would require examining the individual records for each site.

If the SSSI system is to be relied upon to meet the SUD requirements additional action needs to be taken.

Addition to NAP:

1. Ensure all SPAs/SACs are underpinned by a SSSI. Where this is not the case, it will be essential that they are protected from inappropriate pesticide use via an alternative mechanism

2. Ensure all SSSI notifications coincident with SPA/SAC sites are checked and where necessary amended through re-notification to ensure that all SPA/SAC features are also SSSI features

3. Check all SSSI notifications coincident with SPA/SAC are checked to ensure that all potentially damaging activities are listed, and that for each, the relevant operations list covers all relevant operations which may result in damage to the features of the site, rather than just ‘changes’ to those operations.

In situations where the conditions above are not met, and, therefore, where there is no existing formal mechanism via which the effects of pesticide use on an SPA/SAC can be assessed, the obligation on Government, devolved administrations and competent authorities to ensure that SPAs and SACs are not damaged remains. For further discussion of this issue see the RSPB’s response to the consultation in 2010 [18] .

An effective strategy for increasing and improving uptake of IPM (see IPM section above), would be the best means of delivering reduced risk to biodiversity on a landscape scale, ensuring protection beyond designated sites. Therefore, we suggest that the Government could use its 12 new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) to trial improved IPM delivery methods for farmers (such as farmer groups/farmer extension schemes mentioned above), which would provide useful case studies for improving IPM schemes nationally to better protect biodiversity.

Addition to NAP: NIAs used as pilot areas for increasing and improving the uptake of IPM to protect biodiversity.

Public spaces

It is surprising that the UK NAP contains no commitment to phase out or minimize use of pesticides in public spaces such as parks and school grounds. Although the 2012 Regulations (see above) include a requirement for use to be "as low as reasonably practicable" in these areas, the Government says that it will not further define this or issue guidance to pesticide users. This response falls far short of the requirement in the SUD [19] which requires Member States to "ensure that the use of pesticides is minimised or prohibited in certain specific areas" and further that specific alternative options [20] be considered in the first place.

Urban areas have a role to play in delivering the Government’s aim of more and better places for nature. Cities are increasingly thought to provide important habitat for a range of biodiversity, which improves the quality of areas for living and provides health benefits. A plan to phase out the use of pesticides in parks and school grounds would not rule out exemptions being put in place to control particular incidents of pest or disease. Cities such as Toronto and Paris have managed to eliminate or significantly reduce the use of amenity pesticides - the UK Government should draw on this experience and offer leadership and guidance on this issue to local authorities. This could be delivered by changing the objectives of the existing Amenity Forum.

In the previous consultation carried out by Defra on implementation of the SUD, it was very clear that the majority of responses from the public and NGOs were supportive of complete bans in such areas [21] . There is no reason to suspect that it will be any different this time around. Stopping the use of pesticides in such areas is much less complicated than doing so in the agricultural setting. We, therefore, urge the government to listen to the public on this issue.

Addition to NAP: set out a plan to phase out pesticide use in parks and school grounds.

Sales and Information & Awareness raising

Members of the public want to know what the risks are to non-target organisms of using pesticides in gardens. They are particularly worried about bees: for example Buglife receives frequent requests for information about the effects of pesticides on bees and other insects, and what gardeners can do to protect them. Pan UK also receives many calls each year from the public asking about products they intend to use on their lawns or in their gardens and patios etc. Their main area of concern is whether the products they intend to use will harm birds, bees or other wildlife and whether non- or less toxic alternatives are available. This information is not readily available to the public when purchasing chemicals: it is only if they search the internet they can eventually find information. The Sales section of the draft NAP (section 10.2) requires "distributors selling products for non-professional use to provide general information on risks, good practice and low-risk alternatives". The non-regulatory arrangements described relate to shopkeeper training but this does not guarantee that the information will be passed on to the consumer. Although, as stated in the draft NAP, some information is provided on the label, labels can easily be misread or ignored. A reminder on risks and good practice would be very beneficial to ensure pesticides are used properly, along with information on low-risk alternatives.

Therefore, we would recommend an industry-led leaflet, developed in collaboration with stakeholders, to raise awareness of risks to non-target organisms, encourage correct use and suggest low risk alternatives; and to guide consumers to other sources of information. This would be a short leaflet offered to the consumer at the point of sale and would be a much more effective way of delivering this information. This would also be an easy way of ensuring that the regulation is being applied, particularly in relation to low-risk alternatives. This would also help deliver the National Action Plan section 11 Information and Awareness Raising as the leaflet would guide people to the HSE’s pesticides information webpages; we would hope that the ‘alternatives’ section of the website would improve as it only provide links to the homepages of other organisations at the moment.

Addition to NAP: An industry-led information leaflet at point of sale to raise awareness of risks to non-target organisms, encourage correct use and suggest low risk alternatives; and to guide consumers to other sources of information.


[1] Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides; OJ L309, 24.11.2009 , Article 4.

[2] As commented in Recital (5)

[3] Article 1

[4] Pesticides Forum annual report (2011) pp 35 – 46 and pp 47 – 49. http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/Resources/CRD/Migrated-Resources/Documents/P/Pesticides-Forum-AR-2011-revSep12.pdf

[5] Article 4(1)

[6] See for example Voluntary approaches for environmental protection in the European union. OECD ENV/EPOC/GEEI(98)29/FINAL, Paris, OECD, 1998

[7] Recital ( 5 ), Article 4 (1) paras 2 and 3,,

[8] Article 15(2)(b) and (c)

[9] Article 4(1) para 2

[10] http://www2.mst.dk/udgiv/publications/2001/87-7944-622-1/pdf/87-7944-624-8.pdf

[11] Breeze T. D. 2011 Valuing UK Pollination Services http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/25072/2/Insect_pollination_in_UK_agriculture_Final.pdf

[12] Resistance Action Groups http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/guidance/industries/pesticides/advisory-groups/Resistance-Action-Groups

[13] Article 14

[14] Article 4 (1) para 1

[15] Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU) 2009 “Overcoming market and technical obstacles to Alternative Pest Management in Arable Systems” http://www.relu.ac.uk/news/policy%20and%20practice%20notes/Bailey/Bailey%20PPN10.pdf

[15]

[16] Pesticides Forum annual report (2011) http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/Resources/CRD/Migrated-Resources/Documents/P/Pesticides-Forum-AR-2011-revSep12.pdf

[17] http://www.sssi.naturalengland.org.uk/Special/sssi/reportAction.cfm?Report=sdrt17&Category=N&Reference=0

[18] http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/RSPB%20response%20on%20SUD_tcm9-251411.pdf

[19] Article 12

[20] I bid ; “ appropriate risk management measures shall be taken and the use of low risk plant protection products …. And biological control measures shall be considered in the first place”

[21] (see page 33) http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110318131226/http://defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/pesticides/101215-pesticides-condoc-response.pdf

Prepared 19th November 2012