Britain: Buffer zone for agricultural pesticides

The British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has just issued a special report on Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders. The report, from leading British scientists, states that fear of miscarriages, elevated cancer rates and other diseases among people exposed to pesticides could be justified.

The RCEP report will likely lead to a requirement that farmers warn residents before spraying and leave buffer zones around the edges of fields close to homes or other buildings such as schools. The size of such buffer zones has been a crucial issue. Georgia Downs, former singer who is now the driving force in the UK pesticides campaign, says a buffer zone should be at least a mile. A study in California found pesticides spread up to three miles from where they were initially applied.

The report only recommends a five metre buffer zone, but states,” There is significant uncertainty in the science available about whether pesticide spraying can cause ill health and whether some members of the public are being exposed to high enough doses of pesticides from normal use in farming to make them ill. Until research clarifies the extent to which the public is at risk from crop spraying, we recommend that extra precautionary measures are taken by government.”

Professor Vyvyan Howard, a toxicologist who sits on the advisory committee which approves pesticides for use, said: “The biggest threat is to developing children. A foetus can be affected by such tiny traces of chemicals, in concentrations as low as parts per trillion, that no exposure can be safe.”