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Agricultural Policy

At what point should I stop nagging people about Endocrine Disruption...?

That point when you switch on your computer after the long dormancy that is called Christmas and you see a very long list of yellow unopened emails in the inbox – I never get over the shock. Christmas is gone and January starts with a bang. So what to do with the emails – do you start at the top, the most recent ones and work your way down? Or try and reconnect with the dying embers of December and start where you left off? Do you skim the surface, looking for those that can be deleted immediately, or do you enter the digital version of trench warfare and systematically read-file, read-delete, read-action?

For myself, it is a bit of a combination, and I found myself distracted this time round by an Instagram posting, by Bayer, of a germinating rust spore approaching an entrance (stomata) in the surface of a leaf. Rust is a fungal pathogen that, if left unchecked, can cause serious damage to crops yields but one that is usually kept under control in a standard fungicide programme with the use of either a strobilurin or triazole fungicide.

And of course that is the point – as long as farmers have the tools to control pest and diseases, they can produce the large quantities of safe, high quality, affordable food that are expected of them.

Which is why the current public consultation on endocrine disruption, which concludes on the 16th January is so important. As it currently stands, it is entirely possible that UK and European farmers will lose the triazole class of fungicides, making the control of rust (not to mention Septoria and other fungal pathogens) problematic. But surely, as I have already suggested, a farmer could use a Strobilurin fungicide instead? Yes they could in the case of the rust pathogen, but if you were to try the same for diseases such as Septoria you will have a much bigger problem. And how do farmers control Septoria? By adding triazole fungicides as the base for their programmes.

This is why we have been calling everyone in the food supply chain to make their views known to the European Commission as part of the public consultation. The vast majority of farmers and growers that we’ve been speaking to suggest that losing the azoles would be a disaster for UK agriculture and a survey that we carried out last year appears to support that view.

If you value the positive contribution that controlling pests and diseases has on the quality and quantity of food that can be produced in the UK, take a look at Mike Abram’s post on the subject. It includes more information on the subject as well as some tips on how to handle the on-line consultation document.

So at what point should I stop nagging people about Endocrine Disruption? Sometime on 16th January. In the meantime, I’ll get back to clearing the inbox minefield.