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Of pesticides in the wind

I refer to the article ‘Most overused pesticide linked to brain conditions in children’ (August 16).

Let’s try to untangle this knot.

Firstly, it is quasi-comical to read there are pesticides banned in the US and not in the EU since the latter uses extremely more stringent and rigorous methods to approve pesticides. In fact, US farmers use a very wide range of pesticides that have been banned in the EU for a very long time.

This is also due to the fact that the EU uses the ‘precautionary principle’ when it assesses whether a pesticide should be approved on the market or not. This means that when there is credible evidence of danger to environmental or human health, protective action is taken even if there is continuing scientific uncertainty.

The US, on the other hand, sets a high bar for the proof of harm to be demonstrated before any regulatory action is taken. This makes the list of approved pesticides available for farmers in the EU much stricter than what US farmers can avail themselves of.

One would do well to note that the expiration of approval for chlorpyrifos in the EU is January 31, 2019.

Enough has been said about the sampling procedures used by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority and, hence, one cannot comment on the fact that of the 13 samples found to have excessive levels of chlorpyrifos, 12 were grown locally.

I reiterate we are not comparing like with like and one cannot compare one type of crop grown locally on which this type of insecticide is used with another type of crop grown in other parts of the world which does not require the application of this insecticide. Hence, any extrapolations or interpretations of these results are close to superfluous.

The article states that harm from the use of this chemical comes from inhaling the sprayed product.

This further proves that any results from pesticide residue samples as discussed above are no indication of the severity of the situation.

It is true that farmers use this pesticide but any farmer worth his salt knows there is no use applying pesticides to his crop if the final recipient is his neighbour’s field or, even worse, the adjacent village. Hence, farmers do not spray in windy conditions since they would be wasting tons of money worth of pesticides.

Even so, the national action plan on sustainable use of pesticides states that sprayingduring strong wind spells will cause high losses through drift and volatilisation and should, therefore, be avoided and that when spraying in the vicinity of residential areas drift reducing measures, namely slowing down the spraying speed and applying coarser drops, should be taken.

The MCCAA is the competent authority responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of this plan so a question needs to be raised: is this being done?

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