NFU Welcomes Appeal Court Ruling over Use of Pesticides

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Dent

FARMING groups have welcomed the Appeal Court's decision to overturn an anti-pesticides campaigner's legal victory against the Government.

The ruling reverses an original High Court judgment in favour of Georgina Downs, which said Government had failed to comply with its obligations under a European directive to protect residents and bystanders from possible harmful exposure to pesticides during crop spraying.

Ms Downs, 35, from Chichester, West Sussex, has been left with legal costs totalling more than pounds 100,000 after the successful appeal by Defra Secretary Hilary Benn.

She originally won her case last December when Mr Justice Collins ruled she had produced "solid evidence" that residents had suffered harm because of crop spraying near their homes. The judge ordered Mr Benn to reconsider spraying policies because a European safety directive was not being followed.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that the minister was following guidance that gave priority to human health. There was no order for costs, so each must pay its own legal bills.

Ms Downs set up the UK Pesticides Campaign in 2001, claiming she suffered from flu-like symptoms and blistering from crop spraying near her home from the age of 11.

But the Appeal Court said the regulatory framework for pesticides required a balance between the interests of the individual and the community as a whole.

Defra was entitled to conclude that it had achieved that balance by com-pliancwith the terms of the directive which ensures priority is given to the protection of human health, the court said.

After the case, Mr Benn said Defra would start a new consultation in the autumn on giving the public access to crop spraying records and notifying local residents before pesticides were used.

He said: "The protection of the health of those who live or work in, or visit the countryside is our priority. …