This amendment is a watered-down version of an amendment tabled in Committee, but it is effective. The amendment tabled in Committee asked for a report to Parliament on resistant pests, but it was negatived.
The most serious problem of pesticides is that they can lose their effectiveness due to the appearance of tolerant strains of pest. The pesticides create selection pressure on pest populations that invariably have a genetic pool of widely differing susceptibility to the poison. Certain strong individuals survive the pesticide to breed the next generation. The tolerant pest strain is so serious because there is a real danger that the appearance of such strains will obstruct the production of effective pesticides. The outcome is that we are led to increase the amount of pesticides used to counter the resistance, and that is at the heart of much of our concern and underlines the need to table the amendment.
If we are to respect the policy of minimising the use of pesticides to a degree compatible with efficient farming, a thorough consideration of the implications of resistance is of the utmost importance. The Minister said in Committee that resistance did not necessarily lead to a breakdown of control because there were alternatives. It would be a necessary function of consultations with the advisory committee to determine — based on an appreciation of the extent of the resistance — the implications for the implementation of alternative measures. It is only within the past 10 years that any progress has been made in collecting the data necessary to formulate strategies to control the spread of resistance. Many opportunities have been missed and research has been largely limited to listing occurrences and investigating inheritance patterns and biochemical mechanisms. That is unsatisfactory. We need to understand all the processes, including the evolutionary ones, that lead to a failure in pest control. If we wait until there is a control failure it will be far too late. The alternative attitude is to assume that resistance will eventually arise everywhere and to treat it with larger and larger doses. Our amendment seeks to avoid such an approach, which would be environmentally and economically unsound. It would certainly be most unpopular and damaging to everything that we hold sacred in the countryside.