Smith Calls For Sense On Bracken Control

08 March 2011
SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) called for some rational sense all round over the upcoming consideration by an EU scientific committee on whether or not to ban bracken control agent Asulam.
Smith has also expressed his confidence that, despite the shrill rhetoric from some quarters, a workable decision will be made later this week, and has written to Commissioner responsible John Dalli to express his view.

Smith said:

"I wish some people would just calm down. Sometimes a bandwagon can be allowed to roll past if it is heading into a cul-de-sac. It is hardly right to say trust the science over GM yet slate the scientists whenever there is a threat to a cherished pesticide.

"I do not believe the agricultural sector in Scotland is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the pesticides industry. If a better, cheaper, safer alternative to Asulam can be found then everyone would use it instead. I am firmly of the view that the chemicals industry will not innovate to find safer, better alternatives unless they are gently prodded to do so, and left to their own devices would still have us using paint with lead in it and all manner of horrors in organo-phosphates. It was only when legislation compelled them to find better ways of doing things that they did so.

"I can't prejudge the decision by the scientists, but it will not be made in a vacuum. There is light years difference between banning a product NOW, as if this could even be enforced, and deciding to ban it in, say, three years time, and only then provided there are, by that point, other products available.

"We've been here before, and it is depressing to see the same people who frothed at the mouth about rat poison being banned, or predicted our collective doom over pesticides being withdrawn, at it again. Crying wolf might seem like good sport in Scotland, but it makes us look daft in Brussels, where people do actually pay attention and our credibility matters.  It also does not serve the best interests of the industry well.

"If Asulam is, after calm reflection weighing up the science, found to be the best product on the market presently then I'm confident it will be retained and would support that decision, along with the government and everyone else.

"A marker may well be put down that the chemicals industry needs to think about some new product, but this strikes me as no bad thing. Bracken needs to be controlled, clearly. But there must be a better, cheaper, safer way than bombarding vast swathes of the countryside with poison. If there isn't we should assuredly keep on looking for one. The scientists might just help us find a better way, I see no reason why the NFU would oppose attempts at progress."