Submission to the National Policy Forum – The Pesticide Collaboration
Tackling pesticide-related harms to protect biodiversity and human health
The Labour Party manifesto should commit to a major reduction in both pesticide use and related harms to human health and the environment. It is vital that the Labour Party recognises that making agriculture more sustainable is crucial to tackling the nature and climate crises and achieving long term food security that protects people and planet.
Our key recommendations are for the Labour Party to commit to:
- Supporting farmers to increase the uptake of Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Introducing pesticide reduction targets
- Ending the use of pesticides in urban settings
Tackling the climate and biodiversity crises helps to ensure long term food security, so it is important that Labour invests in nature friendly farming. The uptake of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) must be accelerated. IPM is an approach to managing pests, diseases or weeds under which chemical pesticides are used only as a last resort, if at all.The next Labour government should build on the work around the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). Good progress has been made when it comes to the Sustainable Farming Initiative, for example including payments for farmers to not use insecticides and payments for producing an IPM plan. It is important that the new Labour government supports farmers to incorporate all aspects of IPM in order to achieve significant and genuine pesticide reduction. This should include:
- Planning and training, including monitoring of pest thresholds
- Habitat creation for beneficial biodiversity – placed within or close to the cropped area
- Ensuring diversity of crops across the farm such as increased rotations and companion cropping
As it stands, ELMS risks becoming a pick’n’mix situation, whereby (for example) a farmer could be paid public money for simply writing an IPM plan without doing any of the practical actions that actually reduce pesticide use. Labour has a great opportunity to build on this to ensure that ELMS delivers for farmers as well as the environment.
Pesticide reduction targets:
A commitment to introducing pesticide reduction targets would demonstrate that the Labour Party is serious about reducing the impact of harmful pesticides on human and environmental health. It sends a clear message that reversing nature’s decline and protecting human health are priorities, and without reduction targets there is no overarching framework to either drive or measure progress towards this ambition.
The current Conservative Government signed the UK up to Target 7 at COP15 last year, which means the UK should currently be working to reduce the overall risk of pesticides by half by 2030. As well as making sure this target is met, Labour should go above and beyond this, by introducing ambitious pesticide reduction targets.
The Pesticide Collaboration recommends that targets be set for both use and risk reduction. Including a measure of toxicity to humans and wildlife will ensure that the pesticides known to be most directly harmful are reduced first and fastest. But cutting overall use is also needed to ensure that indirect and poorly understood effects from pesticides are reduced.
The Labour Party should also consider introducing a pesticide tax to raise the funding to support nature-friendly farming and to increase the uptake of IPM.
Ban on the urban use of pesticides:
Labour should introduce a ban on the urban use of pesticides: this would enhance biodiversity in towns and cities and protect council workers from the harmful effects of pesticides. The GMB Union have called for an outright ban of Glyphosate – by far the most common herbicide used by councils in urban environments. Over 80 local authorities across the UK have now gone pesticide free. France and Luxembourg both banned urban pesticides years ago, and the EU is now considering a total ban across all 27 Member States.
Independent scientists from around the world largely agree that long-term exposure to glyphosate is harmful to human health in a whole range of ways and can cause conditions such as cancer, kidney and liver disease, act as an endocrine and immune system disrupter, and result in reproductive and neurological problems.
The overuse of glyphosate is destroying many of the areas where wildlife such as birds, insects, bees and hedgehogs forage for food, and contaminating the natural resources they depend on. Glyphosate will often run off hard surfaces such as pavements and paths, contaminating water courses and harming aquatic wildlife in the process.
There is increasing concern from citizens, local authorities and governments about the impacts of pesticides on human and environmental health. As a result, towns and cities across the UK are already considerably reducing, if not completely eradicating the use of pesticides in urban spaces, and are switching to non-chemical methods of weed control of which there are many. Labour should commit to a national ban of harmful pesticides – including glyphosate – in urban areas. It would have no impact on food production, would be popular with the British public and is a relatively easy win in terms of environmental actions.
For more information please contact Amy Heley at email@example.com