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There may no longer be independent testing of pesticide residues in food and drink products

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Independent testing of pesticides in food in doubt after quango cull

Tom Levitt

14th October, 2010

Campaigners fear 'backward' step in pesticide regulation in UK after testing body scrapped as Government also confirms major budget cuts to Natural England and the Environment Agency

There are fears for the future of independent testing for pesticide residues in food after the Government announced major cuts to non-departmental government bodies, known as quangos.

Three bodies, the Pesticide Residue Committee (PRC), the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution will cease to exist in their current form. The PRC was responsible for a major programme of pesticide-testing in food and drink produce being consumed in the UK, collecting more than 3,500 samples and publishing its findings four times a year. All its results were made available to the public.

In its most recent report it found 40 per cent of food contained residues of pesticides, with just over 1 per cent containing residues above the maximum permitted levels.

Announcing its cuts to public bodies, the Government said the PRC would 'reconstitute as a committee of experts'. A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson said it was not known yet whether its independent testing and report programme would continue.

Pesticide Action Network UK coordinator Nick Mole said it was a 'backward step' for pesticide regulation in the UK.

'The PRC was the only independent body doing testing, providing valuable information. Who else is going to do that if not them? I suspect no one,' he said.

The Soil Association said it still hoped the reformed 'committee of experts' would deal with the issue of pesticides in a 'fair and open manner with due consideration to the environmental impact and health risks associated with these dangerous chemicals'.

Green bodies funding cuts


Government has also announced major cuts to the budgets of the Environment Agency and Natural England. In a strongly worded statement, Defra said the cuts would 'dramatically reduce back-office costs' and 'eliminate any duplication in the work they carry out' at both bodies.

The statement also said the Government wanted both public bodies to 'stop policymaking and lobbying activities'. A Defra spokesperson said the Government wanted policy to be decided 'within government and not by arms-length bodies' who should also not lobby for policy-change either.

The Environment Agency responded by saying it was a 'key advisor to Defra on environmental issues and hoped that would continue'.

More details on the cuts to both bodies will be announced after the Treasury's spending review, which takes place next week and details how money will be allocated across government departments for the next four years.

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