9 Dec 2015
SCI Agrisciences Group recently attended the 1st open meeting of the newly formed UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP), held in York on 17 November 2015. The free event was attended by more than 70 delegates from across the UK.
The chair of the committee - Prof William Cushley, Professor of Molecular Immunology at the University of Glasgow - opened the meeting by explaining the role of the ECP and what it hopes to achieve.
The ECP was established on 27 March 2015 as an expert scientific committee to provide independent advice on matters relating to the effective control of pests, including pesticide approval and authorisation, and replaced the previous statutory Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP). Whilst the ECP is keen to retain its independence of thought and action, authoritative advice and cost-effectiveness synonymous with the ACP, Prof Cushley highlighted that the new arrangement will also provide greater transparency, clearer accountability and better co-ordination with other scientific advisory committees such as PRIF (Defra Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food). The ECP comprises 15 core members covering a broad scientific expertise, with additional representatives from the devolved administrations. Prof Cushley was keen to point out that whilst the ECP is a scientific advisory committee it does not make policy decisions - that is for others to do.
A series of presentations followed, giving an opportunity to hear about some of the ECP’s success stories - namely monitoring exposure to inform risk assessment, the role of pesticide product stewardship and the use of emergency authorisations.
Dr Morwenna Carrington, Deputy Director for Chemicals, Pesticides and Industrial Emissions at Defra, provided a perspective on the need for the ECP - highlighting its independent and impartial expert advice, explaining issues to the public and stakeholders, avoiding duplication of EU processes and risk assessments, and adding value to UK regulation and policy.
Dr Karen Galea, Head of Exposure Science at the Institute of Occupational Medicine, presented the results of a Defra funded study which measured urinary biomarkers of pesticides from residents living next to agricultural fields, and concluded that current UK regulatory exposure methods provide sufficiently conservative estimates of residents’ exposure.
Neil Beadle, DuPont Marketing Manager, described the Nematicide Stewardship Programme (NSP), an industry-led initiative to ensure best use and sustainable management of nematicide products applied to potatoes and other crops.
Vivian Powell, Senior Crop Protection Manager at AHDB Horticulture, summarised the use of emergency authorisations (EA), a key discussion topic for the ECP in recent years. Particular reference was made to the 120 day EA granted for the insecticide spinosad to control Spotted Wing Drosophila in cherries in 2015.
In the afternoon, delegates split into groups with committee members acting as facilitators to discuss some of the issues in more detail, before reporting back.
Prof Cushley closed the meeting by concluding that the pesticide arena is not black and white but glorious technicolour.
Dr Robin Blake
Honorary Secretary, SCI Agrisciences Group