Voluntary initiative on pesticides ineffective and weak say MPs

The voluntary initiative (VI) on pesticides is far too weak to be effective and should be re-focused on catchment-sensitive farming and other water issues, the Government has been told.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on progress made in the first four years of the VI on pesticides has concluded that the targets are insufficiently challenging and that there is little evidence of any environmental benefits arising from it.

The Committee believes that the VI can never be comprehensive enough to include all pesticide users and recommends the Government consider introducing further regulatory measures to ensure the involvement of the amenity sector – such as use associated with sport, leisure and landscape.

It calls for the VI to be renewed after its current programme ends in March 2006 and for the Government to provide financial support for the national roll-out of water catchment projects and help to facilitate ongoing professional training using rural development funds.

Sprayer testing and operator registration should be made mandatory to be compatible with forthcoming EU legislation on pesticides.

However, the MPs stop short of calling for a pesticides tax, saying more work needs to be done before they can adopt a firm position and that the only justifiable reason for imposing such a tax would be if the revenues from it were strictly ring-fenced to pay for pesticide mitigation action.

Last year a study by the OECD found that voluntary initiatives were far less effective than mandatory schemes at achieving set targets or goals (see related story) It concluded that mandatory regulation was a far more efficient way of achieving social and environmental goals.

By David Hopkins

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