Politics

Friends of the Irish Environment are greatly saddened by Deputy Tony Gregory's passing. Tony Gregory had a long record of supporting and assisting environment groups like ours, for whom he has tabled written Parliamentary Questions since the Green Party entered Government.

Tony Gregory's constituency and influence extended far beyond Dublin's inner city - the environment has lost a good friend.

Tony Gregory 1947 - 2009


Matt Cooper of Today FM referees a lively debate on the ‘phenomenon' of Ireland's ghost estates - half built and finished - but virtually unoccupied estates built in the boom years. Cooper challenges Parlon's contention that ‘no one knew' it would end like this. Lowes goes for Parlon's assertion that the estate were properly planned and authorised, claiming that pressure from Councillors and business interest had led to a collapse of the planning system.

After the debate, the show received dozen of texts from residents in such estates around the country, contradicting Parlon's denial of their existence and showing the number and extent of these wasting assets, now valued at between 9 and 12 billion euro.

Listen to the debate. [MP3 11MB] 


Letters to Trevor Sargent and Irish MEPs on the pesticides issue.


Trevor Sargent, TD

Minister for Food and Horticulture at theDepartment of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

31 October 2008 By email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Dear Trevor; 

We write to draw your attention to the results of this year’s pesticides studies both here and in the European Union and to requests that you respond in two ways. 

An advance copy of this year’s ‘Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Products of Plant Origin in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein’ reveals that a record proportion of 49% of fruits and vegetables sold in the EU are contaminated with pesticides. 23 pesticides were detected at levels high enough to present an acute risk to adults – according to the EU’s own risk calculations.  

In Ireland unacceptable resides of pesticides in food have increased rapidly. In 2000 there were 6 different pesticides residues above the Maximum Residue Levels [MRL]. In 2005 there were 27. Fruit and vegetable products had an overall failure rate of 1.2% in 2000. That has increased to 3.2%. 

‘Pesticide Use in Food’, published in Ireland in April 2008 presents statistics that show that twice as many Irish fruit and vegetables were over the MRL limits compared to fruits and vegetables imported from our European partners.  The percentage of cereal samples containing pesticides residues sold in Ireland doubled from 2005 – 2006 from 17% to 38% with 11% over the MRL. This is more than 15 times the EU average.  

Of 84 apples sampled, this April 2008 Report shows that 61 had pesticide resides at or over the MRL. 

The proven impact of pesticides on human health include cancers, birth defects, reproductive disruption, and damage to the immune and nervous systems. Specific pesticides can bioaccumulation in the body. A recent EU study ranked pesticides as Europe’s number one food issue with consumers expressing more concern on pesticides than any other topic. 

Infant and young children are particularly vulnerable to potential adverse health impacts due to the fact that their bodies are still developing and protective mechanisms are immature. Pregnant women should also avoid pesticides residues as many of these can travel through the placenta wall as should breast feeding mothers.  

Ireland’s ‘Report on surveillance of pesticides in infant food’ from 2006 demonstrates that infant foods and processed foods are largely pesticide free. However, the level of pesticides in some fresh fruit – such as pears - on the Irish market has to raise concerns if parents seek to save money by using unprocessed or non-organic fresh fruit for infant consumption. Are the organisers of the proposed free fruit scheme for schools aware that when fruit is received it must be properly washed and free of all pesticide residues before being distributed? 

The increasing incidence of unacceptable levels of pesticide residues supports your Party’s long standing call to move the control of pesticides from the Department of Agriculture to the Food and Safety Authority.  While the Department of Agriculture works under a servicer contract with the Health and Safety Authority, control of all pesticide levels should rest with authorities whose primary responsibility is human safety and environmental protection.

This would be in line with the European Commission’s pesticides legislation which is covered by the Directorate for Health and Consumer Protection and by the Directorate for Environment. 

This is our first request – to move the national monitoring programme for pesticide residues in food from the Department of Agriculture to the Health and Safety Authority. 

Under the Directive currently making its way through the European Parliament National Action Plan for Pesticides will be required. Our second request is that you could initiate this procedure with a Public Consultation Period on a proposed Action Plan for Pesticides now. 

Recent intense lobbying here and across Europe seeking laxer controls by farmers is misdirected, particularly given the very high levels of pesticide residues in cereals produced in Ireland. Without Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – or indeed organic farming – Irish farming will remain stuck on a treadmill of increasing pesticide use as resistance increases and the beneficial natural controls are killed off. 

The level of pesticide residue in Irish foods is entirely unacceptable and nothing appears to be being done to address this steadily rising level of pesticide residues in our food. This is an urgent issue that today has almost no voice in the Irish environmental debate when action is so urgently required. 

It is for these reasons that we are seeking your help. 

Respectfully yours,  Tony 

Tony Lowes,Director,

Friends of the Irish Environment  

Sources for this document 

[1] Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Products of Plant Origin in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, DRAFT COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT, 8 September 2008 

[2] Annex I, Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Products of Plant Origin in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, DRAFT COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT, 8 September 2008 

[3] National Food Residue Database, Monitoring Programs 2000 - 2005 

[4] 2006 Pesticides Residues in Food, DoAFF, April 2008 

[5] Report on surveillance of infant food for pesticide residues. Food Safety Authority of Ireland, October, 200

========================

Kathy Sinnott, MEP

31 October 2008 R

egulation on Authorisation of Plant Protection Products

Framework Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides

Dear Kathy 

While it may be unnecessary in your case because of your awareness of these issues, we are writing to all Irish MEPs to draw their attention to the results of this year’s pesticides studies both here and in the European Union and to requests that they resist lobbying by farmers and the chemical industry to weaken the controls over these dangerous substances in the forthcoming vote in the European Parliament. 

An advance copy of this year’s ‘Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Products of Plant Origin in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein’ reveals that a record proportion of 49% of fruits and vegetables sold in the EU are contaminated with pesticides. 23 pesticides were detected at levels high enough to present an acute risk to adults – according to the EU’s own risk calculations.  

In Ireland unacceptable resides of pesticides in food have increased rapidly. In 2000 there were 6 different pesticides residues above the Maximum Residue Levels [MRL]. In 2005 there were 27. Fruit and vegetable products had an overall failure rate of 1.2% in 2000. That has increased to 3.2%. 

‘Pesticide Use in Food’, published in Ireland in April 2008 presents statistics that show that twice as many Irish fruit and vegetables were over the MRL limits compared to fruits and vegetables imported from our European partners.  The percentage of cereal samples containing pesticides residues sold in Ireland doubled from 2005 – 2006 from 17% to 38% with 11% over the MRL. This is more than 15 times the EU average.  

Of 84 apples sampled from those on sale in Ireland, this April 2008 Report shows that 61 had pesticide resides at or over the MRL. 

The proven impact of pesticides on human health include cancers, birth defects, reproductive disruption, and damage to the immune and nervous systems. Specific pesticides can bioaccumulation in the body. A recent EU study ranked pesticides as Europe’s number one food issue with consumers expressing more concern on pesticides than any other topic. We would support The Pesticide Action Networks [PAN] summary of major concerns and we urge you to consider them carefully: 

Regulation on Authorisation of Plant Protection Products ·         Crucial to set strict ‘cut off’ criteria to give clear signal to industry and to remove the worst pesticides from foods;

   Ensuring mandatory substitution of hazardous pesticides with safer alternatives, when available;·        

Cumulative and synergistic effects must be included in all risk assessments.·        

Authorisation to be decided on Member States level and not on “zone level” clustering Members states in an absolute artificial way; 

Framework Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides:·         Making Integrated Pest Management mandatory (IPM), and giving priority to non chemical treatment and setting concrete principles (Annex V);·        

Set up pesticide use reduction targets; ·        

No pesticide spraying in public areas including schools and hospitals;·        

A ban on aerial spraying across the European Union;·        

Gathering information on pesticide poisoning. 

Respectfully yours,  

Tony 

Tony Lowes, Director 

Sources for this document 

[1] Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Products of Plant Origin in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, DRAFT COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT, 8 September 2008

 [2] Annex I, Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Products of Plant Origin in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, DRAFT COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT, 8 September 2008

 [3] National Food Residue Database, Monitoring Programs 2000 - 2005

 [4] 2006 Pesticides Residues in Food, DoAFF, April 2008 

[5] Report on surveillance of infant food for pesticide residues. Food Safety Authority of Ireland, October, 2006

FIE Pesticides request

Colm Burke
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Avril Doyle
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Jim Higgins
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Mairead McGuinness
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Gay Mitchell
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Liam Aylward
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Brian Crowley
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Sean O Neachtain
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Eoin Ryan
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Proinsias De Rossa
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Mary Lou McDonald
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Marian Harkin
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Kathy Sinnott
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Matt Cooper of Today FM referees a lively debate on the ‘phenomenon' of Ireland's ghost estates - half built and finished - but virtually unoccupied estates built in the boom years. Cooper challenges Parlon's contention that ‘no one knew' it would end like this. Lowes goes for Parlon's assertion that the estate were properly planned and authorised, claiming that pressure from Councillors and business interest had led to a collapse of the planning system.

After the debate, the show received dozen of texts from residents in such estates around the country, contradicting Parlon's denial of their existence and showing the number and extent of these wasting assets, now valued at between 9 and 12 billion euro.

Listen to the debate. [MP3 11MB] 


The traditional way of life on England's hillsides and moorlands is in danger of dying out unless action is taken, an expert has warned.

The National Trust has called on the government to develop a strategy to protect the UK's uplands, including keeping farmers on the hills

Dr Stuart Burgess, Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC), said disease outbreaks like foot and mouth, flooding, a lack of young people and lack of affordable housing has brought hill farming to the edge of extinction.

 


But he said keeping livestock on the hills was key to maintaining the character of areas like the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and Dartmoor.

Launching an unprecedented inquiry into the future of England's upland communities, Dr Burgess, who is also the government's rural advocate, said new economic opportunities need to be idenfied if the countryside is to be maintained.

He said the contribution such areas make to the national economy could be doubled to £650bn if the right decisions are made to boost business and innovation.

English uplands, that cover 18 per cent of the country, have featured heavily in the cultural identity of Britain and continue to draw millions of tourists.

But Dr Burgess said he has come across "real hardship" in recent years as farmers recovering from the foot and mouth outbreak face further restricitons from the risk of blue tongue, rising feed costs, increased competition from Europe and now the economic downturn.

"If the livestock disappear up on the hills then it will change the character of the countryside," he said.

Dr Burgess cited the rising age of hill farmers, increased threat from flooding and drought due to climate change and lack of affordable housing.

"I have come across real hardship on hill farms and in discussion with hill farmers. There is a whole question over whether hill farming is sustainable in the future. It is important I think to keep the livestock on the hills but how do we do that? Some farmers have diversified but some are not in a position to do that.

"I am particularly concerned about the social effects if we do not have hill farmers. The knock on effect is a downward spiral for the whole community."

But rather than subsidies, Dr Burgess suggested the way forward is innovation and business development. He said the growth of home-based offices, high levels of entrepreneurship, improved internet access, the demand for renewables and new markets for country produce all present opportunities.

Hill farms are also a potential "carbon store" as the UK trys to reduce carbon emissions.

"England's rural economies have yet further potential to be unlocked. If for example we target underperformance in our rural economies [the £325 billion rural firms currently contribute to the national economy] could be doubled and with it worklessness and poverty reduced."

Will Cockbain, the National Farmers Union uplands spokesman, said the dry stone walls and grazed landscapes loved by many was dependent on farmers.

He said the alternative could be coniferous forests and wind turbines. But he said it was unlikely market forces would sustain hill farming.

"Society has to ask itself do we want the uplands to look like they do now?" he asked. "If the answer is yes then the system that manages them now needs to survive."

The National Trust has called on the government to develop a strategy to protect the UK's uplands, including keeping farmers on the hills.
© The Telegraph