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Strychnine Hydrochloride

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, food and rural Affairs at assessment she has made of the cost to farmers of non-availability of strychnine hydrochloride; what representations she has received from the farming industry on its availability; what research she has commissioned on alternative poisons for farming pest control; and if she will make a statement on future supplies of strychnine hydrochloride. [115801]

Defra first became aware of difficulties obtaining strychnine hydrochloride in early February when a number of regular users contacted Defra's Rural Development Service who are responsible for authorising use of this compound to control mole infestations. Enquiries by my officials revealed that the difficulties had arisen due to a shortage of raw material experienced by the supplier used by many pharmacies. An alternative supplier, who gave assurances that they were able to meet demands, was identified and contact details were posted on the Defra website in early March (, to ease difficulties obtaining strychnine, Defra temporarily suspended the practice of specifying a named pharmacist on the permit to purchase strychnine (Form LP10). This change, which remains in force, enables authorised permit holders to purchase strychnine from any pharmacist with stocks of the compound.In view of the temporary nature of the shortages, an assessment of the cost to farmers was considered unnecessary.Representations were received from regular users, including pest controllers and farmers.Aluminium phosphide is also approved for use as an alternative for mole control. In the past the Department has commissioned work on a further alternative preparation, micro-encapsulated bromoform. This preparation has not been through the approvals process and it is not considered appropriate for the Department to pay for such registration costs.Defra has recently asked the Central Science Laboratory to undertake a review of the range of mole control methods which exist across the EU. The aim of this review is to produce guidance to UK interests on the most humane and effective methods of mole control which are currently available.As far as I am aware, strychnine hydrochloride is currently available from pharmacies, and there have been no recent enquiries reporting shortages. I am unable to comment on the long-term availability of this compound, as this is a matter for the importers.