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|The Best Way to cut Pesticide Risk is to Root Out the Cowboys||| Print ||
David Layland, joint managing director of treatment specialist, Japanese Knotweed Control, welcomes the latest Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations which come into force this week but believes they could have gone even further in helping to raise environmental standards.
David Layland writes: After months of waiting, the new 2012 regulations will come into force on Wednesday (18 July), implementing Directive 2009/128/EC on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The Directive includes a number of provisions aimed at achieving the sustainable use of pesticides by reducing risks and impacts on human health and the environment.
No relaxation on compliance or certification
Despite widespread industry concern, there has fortunately been no relaxation on the need for anyone advising on or supplying professional pesticides to hold a suitable certificate of compliance.
In fact, provisions within the new Directive include the establishment of National Action Plans; compulsory testing of application equipment; provision of training for, and arrangements for the certification of, operators, advisors and distributors; a ban (subject to limited exceptions) on aerial spraying, provisions to protect water, public spaces and conservation areas; the minimisation of risks from handling, storage and disposal and the promotion of low input regimes including Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
It had been feared that the Directive might relax the need for EU member state governments to insist on certification, an option that had been widely criticised in the industry, not least by the UK's Amenity Forum. However, the new regulations maintain the UK's existing requirements for those who work with pesticides to hold a certificate and exisiting City and Guilds NPTC PA and BASIS certificates will continue to be recognised.
Indeed, the Directive goes even further by stipulating that after November 2015 any sprayer operator that previously relied on 'grandfather rights' for exemption must also now own a certificate of competence. Under previous UK legislation governing pesticide use, anyone born before 31st December 1964 who used an agricultural product on their own, or their employer's land, was exempt from certification requirement.
Who will police the regulations?
But while most industry fears have proved unfounded and the new Directive is to be largely welcomed, I have some concerns that it has perhaps not gone far enough.
The legislation provides that certificates can be withdrawn if the holder is found guilty of an offence under the regulations and that the operator would need to undergo future training and an assessment before obtaining a new certificate. But who within the industry is going to robustly police this process?
This scheme involves three totally independent, separate and unannounced audits being carried out annually on each contractor member, including checks with their clients that treatments have been successfully completed to everyone's satisfaction.
As such, it is recognised as a true indicator of a contractor's viability and one reason why Amenity Assured contractors are now the approved choice of well more than 200 UK local authorities.
The concern, of course, is that the less scrupulous contractors will simply not bother with Amenity Assurance and will therefore remain unregulated and unchallenged.
Cowboys need rounding up
Another glaring omission from the new directive would appear to be any mention of continuous professional development provision. Surely ongoing training, qualifications and CPD are vital to the safe use of pesticides and a dedicated, standardised programme that continually reinforces best practice should also be encouraged?
There's no doubt that the Directive which comes into force this Wednesday is to be welcomed but anyone using or storing pesticides should not simply see obtaining appropriate certification as 'job done'. In our own specialist area of work, the treatment of invasive, non-native plants such as Japanese Knotweed, the lack of regulation and the growing proliferation of 'cowboy' operators continues to undermine the industry's reputation.
It is essential that contractors continually keep their legislative knowledge and compliance up to date and maintain the very best quality management systems and industry standards. Those failing to do so need to be identified and, pardon the pun, immediately rooted out.
David Layland is joint managing director of Japanese Knotweed Control www.japaneseknotweedcontrol.com, a Cheshire-based company specialising in the management and eradication of invasive, non-native plants such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed.
Committed to technological development, including its innovative stem injection system, education and training within the industry, the company has established an extensive list of commercial clients from both the public and private sectors and is increasingly involved in the domestic treatment market.
* The Amenity Forum (Amenity Landscaping Environmental Stewardship Forum) is an independent body to bring together professional organisations with an involvement in the amenity horticulture sector.
Source: Headline Environment