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Farming

Glyphosate approval delayed again

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PH270516_Page_36_Image_0001A PLANNED vote on the future of the world’s most widely used herbicide in the European Union has been delayed again in light of persistent concerns over its safety.

Member state representatives on the European Council’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed were set t o vote on reapproval terms for glyphosate, the current license for which expires in June.

This follows the first postponement in March, when member state ministers were expected to wave through the Commission’s plans to relicense glyphosate for 15 years. However, ahead of the vote France’s environment minister Segolene Royale announced that the French government would vote against approval. This was followed by statements from the governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden declaring that they would vote against reauthorisation unless the vote was postponed until health concerns had been cleared up.

WHO CONCERNS

Last year, the World Health Organisation’s cancer research arm IARC classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Later in the year, Commission watchdog EFSA released an opinion in which it stated glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic and recommended increasing the threshold for glyphosate residues in the EU.

This sparked a spat between scientists from the two organisations and led to scrutiny of EFSA’s work – which looked at the glyphosate compound in isolation, whereas IARC examined glyphosate products in solutions, as they are found on the market – and led to calls for greater transparency from the watchdog.

On Thursday, French minister Segolene Royale said in a statement: “In accordance with my announcement of March 4, France remains opposed to the re-approval of glyphosate for the market for 9 years.”

Royale continued: “I have been in contact with my counterparts in other European countries. The ministers for other countries, notably Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria and Portugal have indicated they would vote against the Commission’s proposal or abstain.”

The French environment minister said France had taken its stance in light of the IARC findings on glyphosate. France has banned the sale of glyphosate to non-professionals and stopped its use in parks and public spaces.

Germany had said it would abstain in voting because the country’s farm and environment ministers belong to different parties, with different views on the debate, and no common position could be reached.

NO CONSENSUS

The revised proposal put up for debate by the Commission, following a vote in the European Parliament last month, was abandoned on Thursday after the EU executive failed to secure the required majority among EU governments.

Parliamentarians who had seen the proposal were highly critical of the Commission’s plans, which they said failed to acknowledge the ongoing concerns about glyphosate’s safety or MEPs’ resolution of last month agreeing that sales of the herbicide should be restricted to professional users only, and that the practice of using glyphosate as a desiccant on crops before harvest should be banned.

However, according to EU sources, the Commission’s revised proposal would have banned some coformulants, which evidence suggests increases any health risks associated with glyphosate.

Commenting on the development on Thursday, EU Greens’ environment and food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said: “This latest postponement is a sign that the significant opposition to reapproving glyphosate is being taken seriously by key EU governments. It is clear that the EU Commission and the agro-chemical industry were hell-bent on bulldozing through the approval of glyphosate for unrestricted use for a long timeframe but thankfully this push has been headed off for now.

“We hope this postponement will convince more EU governments to join in opposing the approval of this controversial substance and, at the very least, to proactively propose comprehensive restrictions on its use.

“The Commission cannot keep coming back with proposals that do not address the concerns with glyphosate. Instead, it needs to finally recognise that there are major problems and legislate for this.

“Only last month, the European Parliament voted to highlight its concerns with glyphosate and adopted a resolution opposing approval of glyphosate for most of its uses. MEPs voted to oppose the approval of glyphosate in agriculture where there are alternative methods for weed control, in the pre-harvest stage, in public parks and playgrounds and for hobby gardeners.

“EU governments should now take this on board both in terms of the pending EU approval but also at national level, where member states can introduce their own bans or restrictions, as France has already indicated it will do.”

Staes, who is MEP for Flanders in Belgium, added: While the agrochemical lobby is desperately trying to spin it otherwise, the finding by the WHO’S IARC that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans is of major concern. This, combined with the established negative impacts on the environment, should be leading to a global moratorium on its use.”

UK FARMERS ‘EXASPERATED’

Responding late on Thursday, NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Like most farmers who use glyphosate regularly, I am nothing short of exasperated as to why this key herbicide cannot simply and quickly be given the reauthorisation that has been recommended by EFSA – the appropriate EU scientific body.

Some member states in the committee are prevaricating and wasting time when they could be taking decisions based on scientific evidence.

Glyphosate is a pesticide which allows farmers to combat weeds while supporting cultivation methods that can preserve good soil structure. There is no sense behind this delay and we look to Member States to support an evidence-based, full re-approval at the earliest possible opportunity.”

In their resolution last month, MEPs appealed to the Commission to err on the side of caution and abide by the precautionary principle in its decision making; in theory, the scientific principle underpins EU environment and public health legislation.

It now remains to be seen whether a vote will take place in the coming weeks or whether the European Commission will be required to cast the deciding vote.

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Farming

Appeal for dog walkers to keep pets under control during lambing season

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THE LAMBING season is upon us and with many public paths crossing fields of sheep, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority is appealing to dog walkers to follow best practice when out in the countryside.

While walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail and other public footpaths and bridleways:

Always keep dogs on a short lead and under close control when sheep or any other livestock are present.
Clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it wherever you can or take it away –please do not leave poo bags in the countryside.

National Park Authority Public Rights of Way Officer, Meurig Nicholas said: “If your dog is out of your sight or left out of control, it may chase after, attack or worry sheep. Worried and stressed pregnant sheep can miscarry or abort their lambs.

“Young lambs are also very vulnerable at this time, and can get distressed and even die if they are separated from their mothers or abandoned after being chased by dogs.”

There have also been incidents where dogs have had to be rescued from cliffs because they were not kept under close control.

Mr Nicholas added: “These situations have resulted in emergency services such as the Coastguard and RNLI having to retrieve and rescue dogs. These incidents are avoidable and add unnecessary pressure to our busy emergency services.”

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Farming

Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues

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THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.

Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.

Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.

Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.

“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.

Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.

PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said;  “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.

“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.

“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”

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Farming

NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG

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NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.

In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.

“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.

“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.

“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”

Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.

“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence.  We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”

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