Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2004-05
5 April 2005

5 April 2005


Government is not placing sufficient priority on the safe and sustainable use of pesticides, says a report published today by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

The Committee's report on progress made in the first four years of the Voluntary Initiative (VI) on pesticides concludes that some of the VI's targets are insufficiently challenging and, in particular, that there is currently little irrefutable evidence of the environmental benefits that have resulted from the initiative.

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

The Committee also calls for the VI's schemes for sprayer testing and operator registration to be made mandatory and notes that such an approach should be compatible with forthcoming EU legislation.

The Committee calls for the VI to be renewed after its current programme ends in March 2006 and for its remit to be re-focussed on catchment-sensitive farming and other water issues. The Government should provide financial support for the national roll-out of the water catchment projects and help to facilitate ongoing professional training, using rural development funds.

The MPs say that considerably more work is needed to explore the possible design of a pesticides tax, before they can adopt a firm position with regard to its imposition. However, the Committee is adamant that the only justifiable reason for imposing a pesticides tax would be to raise funds to pay for pesticide mitigation action-if the revenues raised from such a tax were not to be hypothecated, then the adverse financial impacts on farmers would make levying a tax unjust.

The MPs criticise the Government for its delay in bringing forward the draft national pesticides strategy and recommend that the final strategy document be published as a matter of urgency. However, they welcome the inclusion in the draft strategy of an action plan addressing the use of pesticides in the amenity sector and urge the Government to regard it as a particular priority.


The report follows s an inquiry conducted between January and February 2005. The inquiry was announced in our press notice of 9 July 2004 (available on our website). The Committee appointed a Sub-Committee to conduct the inquiry, under the chairmanship of Joan Ruddock MP.

The Voluntary Initiative is a package of measures developed by the agricultural and agrochemical industries, intended to minimise the impact of pesticides on the environment.

The Sub-Committee received written evidence from a number of interested parties. It took oral evidence from: the Crop Protection Association; the Agricultural Industries Confederation; the National Farmers' Union; Friends of the Earth; Pesticide Action Network-UK; the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; the Soil Association; the Environment Agency; the Advisory Committee on Pesticides; the Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment; Professor Barry Dent, independent Chairman of the VI Steering Group; and Rt Hon Alun Michael, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality, accompanied by senior officials from the Pesticides Safety Directorate and HM Treasury.