Agriculture (Chemicals)

Oral Answers to Questions — Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st May 1963.

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Mrs. Butler:

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research his Department undertakes into the possible effects on animal and human health of all new chemical products used in agriculture and horticulture.

Photo of Mr Denzil Freeth Mr Denzil Freeth , Basingstoke

Research in this field is currently being undertaken by all the four research councils, which are responsible to my noble Friend, and also by the British Industrial Biological Research Association, which is grant aided by the Department of Scientific and industrial Research. This research, as well as any applied research for which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is responsible, is kept under review by a Committee set up by the Agricultural Research Council under the Chairman- ship of Professor Frazer of Birmingham University.

Mrs. Butler:

In the light of the new evidence now available about what appears to be a chain reaction between many of these chemicals and a consequent damage to human and animal health, does not the hon. Gentleman think it necessary to have a completely fresh approach to the whole problem and a much more rigorous examination of pesticides and chemicals before they are released on the market? If this is being done in America, is there any reason why we cannot do it here?

Photo of Mr Denzil Freeth Mr Denzil Freeth , Basingstoke

There are really two questions here. First, the research aspect. I am satisfied that the Frazer Committee is well equipped to survey and report on the state of research in this respect and to make recommendations. Regarding the commercial exploitation of chemicals, there is, of course, the voluntary notification scheme operated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and I think that Questions on that subject should be addressed to him.

Mr. J. Wells:

Would my hon. Friend give an undertaking not to "double-up" unnecessarily on the semi-commercial research being undertaken in the United States and to give adequate publicity to the successful outcome of new chemical and agricultural methods, because it is only through steps forward in chemical methods that we shall be enabled to produce enough food for the country?

Photo of Mr Denzil Freeth Mr Denzil Freeth , Basingstoke

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is vital that the agricultural and horticultural producer should have every help that science can give him. But it is also important that we should parallel with it adequate research on the short-term and the long-term effects of all kinds of chemicals.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

In view of the degree of uncertainty about the effect of these products on animal life, will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that top priority is being given to this matter by the Government and by his Department? Is he aware that we are concerned that this should not be allowed to run on but that it should be treated as something of first-class importance, as it deserves to be?

Photo of Mr Denzil Freeth Mr Denzil Freeth , Basingstoke

I think it is receiving that treatment. Certainly research has been intensified since the publication of the Sanders Report.