A Legal Poisoning?
Pesticide Campaigner to sue the Government in landmark case following
DEFRA announcement on crop-spraying.
see Sunday Telegraph 20/6/04 Pesticide Platitudes
A prominent pesticide campaigner has responded to
the Government’s announcement that there is no scientific
justification for the introduction of no-spray zones around residential
areas by leading a legal challenge against the Government on behalf
of all those living near fields that are regularly sprayed with
"cocktails" of poisonous chemicals.
Georgina Downs’ campaign (www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk)
to highlight the inherent health risks and devastating effects of
pesticide use in rural Britain resulted in the launch of 2 DEFRA
Consultations’ on crop-spraying on July 21st 2003. The first
part was in relation to making it a legal obligation to notify people
before any spraying application and to provide all the necessary
chemical information. The second part was in relation to introducing
mandatory no-spray zones around residential areas. This Consultation
had the highest number of responses since DEFRA records began. The
result of this Consultation has been announced to Parliament by
Alun Michael (DEFRA Minister for Rural Affairs) Mr. Michael has
stated that "The independent scientific advice I have received
both from the independent Advisory Committee on pesticides and DEFRA’s
Chief Scientific Advisor, is very clear that the existing system
provides full reassurance. I am confident that no new scientific
evidence has come to light that would provide a safety based justification
for buffer zones and I have therefore decided against their introduction
around agricultural land."
Ms. Downs now intends to expose in court the failure
of successive Governments’ in protecting the health of rural
residents. Ms. Downs states "This decision is outrageous and
is yet another example of the Government’s total disregard
for public health. The evidence demonstrating the impact crop-spraying
has had on the health and lives of so many people is unarguable,
but has been repeatedly dismissed and ignored by the Government
and their scientific advisors in favour of maintaining the status
quo and protecting chemical company interests."
Ms. Downs has the support of an increasing number
of leading toxicological and epidemiological experts from around
the world and she believes that the Government will find it very
difficult to defend their position in a court of law.
A recent comprehensive review of pesticide research
by the Ontario College of Family Physicians has also confirmed the
dangers of pesticides, that also supports Ms. Downs’ position.
The college found consistent evidence linking pesticide exposure
to brain, kidney, prostrate and pancreatic cancer as well as leukaemia,
non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neurological damage, Parkinson’s
disease and other serious illnesses and diseases.
The review found that children are particularly vulnerable
to the effects of pesticide exposure and identified increased risks
for a number of illnesses and diseases, including kidney cancer
and acute leukaemia.
The college’s overall message to patients was
to avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever and wherever possible.
Ms Downs continues to receive emails and letters from
people all over the country reporting clusters of acute and chronic
long-term illnesses and diseases in communities surrounded by sprayed
fields. She submitted a "hard-hitting" video featuring
a number of these cases to the Government during the Consultation
to show the reality of exactly what is happening in the countryside
from the continued use of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals
in agriculture. The most common illnesses reported include clusters
of various cancers, leukaemia, asthma, ME, along with many other
medical conditions and Ms. Downs points out that reports of this
nature have gone on for decades.
Ms. Downs points out that Alun Michael and other members
of the Government saw this video in full. She states "Considering
the pattern of ill-health that is being reported and the international
evidence confirming the dangers of pesticides then this is clearly
not an acceptable or responsible decision."
Ms. Downs' campaign has been supported by Samuel Epstein,
Professor Emeritus Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University
of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and Chairman of the
Cancer Prevention Coalition who is a leading international authority
on cancer-causing effects of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals,
Michael Meacher MP, (Former DEFRA Minister for the Environment and
one of the Minister’s Ms. Downs originally presented the case
to) Norman Baker MP, the Liberal Democrat’s front bench environment
spokesman, Caroline Lucas MEP and the Soil Association amongst others.
Ms. Downs says “The Government’s very
own documentation highlights the dangers of pesticides, the risks
inherent in their use and the subsequent adverse health effects.
This shows that they have been fully aware of the dangers but have
sat on this information, not informed the public and allowed people
to be poisoned by Government’s very own policy. Now I would
like to see if this form of poisoning is deemed to be legal."
Notes to Editors:
Pesticides are poisonous chemicals and are inherently
hazardous to human health
The principle aim of pesticide regulation in the UK is supposed
to be the protection of public health.
There is currently no legal obligation for farmers to notify anyone
of any intended spraying application or to supply information on
the chemicals being used, regardless of whether adverse health effects
have been suffered
At the present time a crop-sprayer is legally allowed to repeatedly
spray mixtures of poisonous chemicals right up to the open window
of any occupied premises whether it be a resident’s home,
a school (nursery, infant, primary etc.) a home for the elderly
or disabled or any office or workplace
The "bystander risk assessment" is the official method
of assessing the dangers and risks to public health from agricultural
spraying, but is not representative of the long-term exposure of
a resident living in an agricultural area. (See www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk
for further information)
Georgina Downs campaigns to highlight the effects of pesticide use
in rural Britain and has lived next to regularly sprayed fields
for 20 years. She has investigated the history of crop-spraying
and the regulatory system for pesticides and met with Government
Ministers (Lord Whitty, DEFRA Minister for Food and Farming and
Michael Meacher, Former Minister for the Environment on December
17th 2002 and Alun Michael, Minister for Rural Affairs on December
17th 2003) to present her case for a change in the regulations and
legislation governing agricultural spraying. She has also produced
2 videos "Pesticide Exposures for People in Agricultural Areas
– Part 1 Pesticides in the Air; Part 2 The Hidden Costs"
to illustrate chemical exposure and the effects on people living
in rural areas. She has called for an immediate ban on crop-spraying
and the use of pesticides near to people's homes, schools, workplaces
and any other places of human habitation and for the introduction
of a new legal obligation to warn people before spraying and to
provide the necessary chemical information
Ms. Downs' campaign was featured on The Food Police BBC1 March 26th
2003; The Observer on April 13th 2003 ("Georgina's Fight Against
Toxic Peril" and "Can We Have a Breath of Fresh Air?")
Today programme BBC Radio 4 July 11th 2002; Farming Today BBC Radio
4 on March 25th, May 3rd and July 22nd 2003; Sunday Telegraph on
June 30th and July 28th 2002, March 23rd, May 5th and 31st August
2003; BBC Breakfast News August 5th 2003; You and Yours BBC Radio
4 on September 1st, November 6th and 12th 2003; That’s Esther
ITV January 25th 2004 and in various other media
DEFRA launched a Consultation on crop-spraying on July 21st 2003.
The first part was in relation to making it a legal obligation to
notify people before any spraying application and to provide the
information on the chemicals to be used. The second part was in
relation to introducing mandatory no-spray zones around residential
areas. This Consultation resulted in the highest number of responses
since DEFRA records began.
Alun Michael (Rural Affairs Minister) has issued a written statement
that is available at www.defra.gov.uk
For further information about the Ontario College of Family Physicians
Pesticides Literature Review see www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk
For further information in relation to Ms. Downs’ submission
to the DEFRA Consultation and accompanying video, featuring people
from all over the country reporting clusters of acute and chronic
long-term illnesses and diseases in communities surrounded by sprayed
fields or any other aspect of Ms. Downs’ campaign see www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk
Contact: Georgina Downs
Telephone: 01243 773846
Campaign: "A Breath of Fresh Air?"