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Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the objectives are of the Pesticides Safety Directorate’s voluntary pilot scheme underway in the Midlands on the disclosure of information on pesticides being sprayed; when it is expected to report; and if he will make a statement. (128416)

The objective of this pilot study is to run a small scale trial of a system for public disclosure of farmers’ spray records with a view to:

investigating the practicalities of handling ‘third party’ requests, including locating farms and identifying and contacting the individuals responsible for pesticide spraying in each case;

determining the probable level of public interest and hence establishing whether there is a significant need for Government to act in a ‘third party’ role if it is not feasible for members of the public to get this information directly from farmers;

determining the practical implications and estimating the likely cost of setting up and running a Government scheme on a national basis.

The study is expected to run from 1 March to 31 August 2007. There will then need to be a period of analysis which may include some follow-up survey work involving inquirers and farmers from the study area. Officials aim to report the outcome of the study to Ministers by the end of the year. Once Ministers have considered all the relevant information a decision will be made on the way forward and a public announcement will be made.