My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment, and I support it very strongly. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will test the opinion of the House.
We have major problems with these chemicals. First, our testing regime tests single pesticides, but does not look at combinations or mixtures of pesticides. Secondly, people are required to notify local premises prior to spraying, but there are two difficulties with this: as downwind is not necessarily a short distance, these chemicals can travel very long distances, and you cannot predict the direction the wind is blowing. Another difficulty is that they sit on the land on crops, and when the sun comes out, they vaporise. Even though people might have been warned about spraying, the vaporisation means that the amount in the air goes up again and it is spread still further towards people living in the vicinity.
I have a list of references from different parts of the scientific literature which I will not go through in detail now, as it is not the time. But I point out that pesticides can cause deformities in unborn offspring, cancers, and mutations that poison the nervous system and block the natural defences of the immune system. The irreversible effects are permanent and cannot be changed once they have occurred. I have looked after an awful lot of cancer patients, many coming from farming communities in Wales. When they are young and ask me about exposure to chemicals, it is very difficult to have that conversation, because by then they, or maybe their child, is already so seriously ill or dying, that everything is irreversible. We cannot carry on doing this and polluting the environment without thinking again. Article 3(14) of EU Regulation 1107/2009 defines rural residents living in the locality of pesticide-sprayed crops as “vulnerable groups,” and they are recognised as having high pesticide exposure over the long term.
The side effects of the individual chemical agents are quite scary. When one looks at the cumulative effects long term, we cannot continue to ignore them. The effect on rural residents will go on and on, even for those living at sizeable distances. I hope that the House will reflect on the debate we had on the Agriculture Bill, when the Minister at the time, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, told the Committee that we need a population in good health to cope with the threat of infection during the pandemic. We cannot carry on having a rural community that is being poisoned by its own actions in an attempt to supply us with food which is cheap and probably underpriced for the value which should go to farmers for responsible farming. I hope that this House will support this amendment.