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East Anglia: Regional backing for new campaign against illegal pesticides

12:00 18 January 2014

John Collen on his farm at Gisleham.

John Collen on his farm at Gisleham.

Archant © 2011

A year-long campaign has been launched, aimed at raising awareness of the risks of illegal pesticides.

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The campaign is supported by the Voluntary Initiative and Red Tractor Assurance, with funding from the Crop Protection Association, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.

Trade in illegal pesticides, involving organised criminal gangs, is increasing around the world, campaign organisers say.

The illegal pesticides are untested and uncontrolled and therefore may contain inferior or even dangerous and banned substances, and their use can endanger the health of sprayer operators, deprive farmers of their Single Farm Payment and farm assured status, result in crop failure or rejection, create environmental risks to wildlife soil and water and even lead to prosecution, they say.

John Collen, who sits on the NFU’s regional combinable crops board and farms at Gisleham, near Lowestoft, said he had never come across illegal imports since he bought only through reputable merchants, but advised farmers to report anyone suspicious to police.

“Clearly, there are illegal pesticides out there,” he said. “I have never seen them and would never consider buying them – the risks are just too high.”

However, he added: “My understanding is the way these are being sold is becoming ever more complex.”

Farmers, operators and agronomists are being urged to buy only known and reputable pesticides from known and reputable suppliers, and to check that packaging is professional, tamper proof and securely sealed and has a full label written in English.

If you spot something suspicious contact DEFRA on 08459 335577.

Richard Butler, Voluntary Initiative (VI) chairman, said: “The Voluntary Initiative is all about responsible pesticide use.

“As every farmer, operator and agronomist knows responsible pesticide use starts with using an approved product and following the information on the label. It is really sad that farmers now have to be aware of the danger posed by unscrupulous professional counterfeiters who want to undermine the professionalism and competence of UK farmers and sprayer operators”.

David Clarke, chief executive of Red Tractor Assurance, said: “Red Tractor Assurance schemes have always focused on the correct use of pesticides and we are clear that our remit includes ensuring that any pesticides are both approved and acquired legitimately. That is why we support the ‘Watch Out!’ for illegal pesticides campaign”.

Chris Mawdsley, head of compliance for HSE’s Chemicals Regulation Directorate said: “Pesticides are carefully regulated to protect human health and the environment. HSE and other regulators will work together to take robust action against those who break the law on pesticides and unnecessarily put themselves and others at risk.”

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