Tuesday, September 30

Back again to the manure saga

You may have noticed a lull in the postings this month. For a couple of weeks we have been on holiday in the Var region of France. More on that later.
Just before I went away the editor of the website >LIVING rang me to talk about the aminopyralid problem and true to his word he has placed an article on his website to help publicise the problem. To read his article click here

I also had a letter awaiting me from one of the MPs that I wrote to, Mary Creagh. Enclosed was a response from Phil Woolas.
In the letter Mr Woolas confirms that the 'The possibility that crops could be affected by contaminated manure was anticipated .......... As a result, the restriction that manure should not be applied to those sensitive crops was added to the label" He goes on to say. "Following label instructions is a legal requirement and failure to comply with the conditions of use is a prosecutable offence. I do not think it could reasonably have been foreseen that so many farmers would appear to have been unaware of the restriction, or to have disregarded it."

He also states that, "Farmers and distributors do not, in any case, hold large stocks because of the cost, and these products are thus only in the system to the extent that they have already been used in 2008. This may still have a potential impact on manure sold into 2009."

On testing he says, "Establishing whether manure or compost might be contaminated is indeed difficult. Sensitive chemical tests do exist for aminopyralid which are capable of detecting as little as 10 to 20 millionths of a gram of the substance in a kilogram of plant material, soil or manure. However, these tests are highly complex and expensive and some plant species, particularly legumes are sensitive to even lower levels. .... This means that chemical analysis is unlikely to be an affective way of monitoring residues."

On re-instating the product he says, "The investigation that is currently being undertaken by PSD will be looking at how the difficulties that have arisen for gardeners and allotment holders may be dealt with and prevented in the future before re-instating the product authorisation. Should DOW AgroSciences apply for use of aminopyralid on cereals, they will have to address all the appropriate data requirements, as well as any relating specifically to this issue."

On thing that struck me about his response was - if no-one is responsible for investigating misuse of the chemical then the fact that misuse is a prosecutable offence isn't really much help. No-one seems interested in finding out where misuse has occurred. Also some farmers, or indeed stable owners, use contractors to spray their fields so to just blame farmers seems a bit simplistic.

Also if it is accepted that manure bought in 2009, (I would say probably even into subsequent years), could be contaminated what is being done by government departments to publicise this among gardeners and allotment holders. We have found that trying to get publicity - especially TV coverage which would reach many more people - is a bit like getting blood from a stone.

To read a fuller account to Mr Woolas MP's response click here

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