The Labour Party has tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which aims to ‘reduce dependence’ upon pesticides.
The new clause would require the Defra Secretary to publish proposals to monitor the impact of pesticides, conduct research into alternative methods of pest control and promote their take-up and consult on proposals to set a target to reduce the use of pesticides.
Shadow Farming Minister David Drew said: “Farmers need to be able to farm productively and profitably, but excessive use of pesticides can have an impact on soil and water quality and wildlife diversity, as well as human health.
“We strongly support investment in new technology and alternatives to pesticides through integrated pest management.
“We are also promoting an amendment to support production of healthy, sustainable food via whole farm agro-ecological systems, which aims to substantially reduce reliance on pesticides.
“The Bill will not be able to achieve improvements in soil quality and water management if pesticide use is not controlled and there is no requirement to invest in alternatives.”
Through the amendment, the Labour Party is asking the Government to measure environmental health, the effect of pesticides on human health, the frequency of pesticide application, areas to which pesticides are applied and the take-up of alternative methods.
Mr Drew hopes this monitoring and new investment in alternatives will build on work already being done by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) to provide farmers with tools and advice to reduce pesticide use.
The amendment does, however, fall short of proposing a pesticide tax as a way of reducing use.
Chair of the Natural Capital Committee and key Government adviser Dieter Helm has previously suggested fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides should be taxed to ensure the ‘polluter pays’ principle is more effectively applied after Brexit.
But Mr Drew said: “Though attracted by much tougher controls on pesticides, we would have to be persuaded on how the tax will work before accepting this as the best way forward at present.”