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Monitoring pesticide use and alternatives

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Labour, Cambridge 3:15 pm, 5th March 2020

Aha! As ever, I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He has touched on a subject that is of some interest to me, as I chair the all-party parliamentary group for life sciences. I look forward to having a detailed conversation with him about CRISPR-Cas9 and other exciting techniques.

In answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question, we are absolutely interested in looking at ways in which we can reduce pesticide use. As I indicated earlier, I am well aware that farmers do not use pesticides without due caution, or without bearing in mind the current safety regulations and the costs involved. Having said that, we believe there should be additional measures in this Bill. We fully accept that pesticides are needed in some situations, but other new technologies might be available, including drones and satellite images that have the potential to make the application of these chemicals much more targeted and less damaging. I am told that those techniques are already being used in other countries, but if we are not monitoring pesticides and their impact, there is no way that we will be able to encourage or assist farmers to adopt more selective and less damaging techniques.

All Members present have been repeatedly promised by Ministers that when we left Europe, we would bring in stronger human and environmental protections, or at least equivalence. The Labour party believes that that is an absolute minimum, we should monitor what impact pesticides are having; where that impact is concentrated; and whether children, mothers and babies have been affected, especially in rural communities where exposure is likely to be higher. This amendment does not ban anything. It does not stop any farmer who needs to use safe pesticides on their crops, or to use them to increase their yields, from doing so. It simply states that we are not averting our gaze, but keeping our eyes open to the known risks; that we look to reduce those risks; and that we will particularly protect women and children in rural communities. On that basis, I ask that the clause be read a Second time.