Quiet Diplomacy Wins On Asulam

12 May 2011
Alyn Smith MEP has hailed the decision by the European Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) to maintain, for the moment, the use of Asulam (marketed in Scotland as Asulox) in the EU.
Fears had been expressed that the chemical used for aerial bracken spraying would be taken off the market due to safety concerns based on a limited field of evidence and an incomplete scientific assessment for the uses Asulam is put to. However, the Committee accepted the case that the chemical should be maintained for now given its importance in controlling bracken.
Smith said:
"Hats off to the scientists, more often than not the system works. I well remember the headline in the Scottish Farmer "Smith calls for calm, but he's on his own" to which I would now quietly add the words "but he's right".
"It is right that we keep the amount of chemicals in our environment under regular review, so it is right and proper that this was looked at critically. I wrote individually to each national representative on the Committee as well as to the Commissioner himself to make this point, but also to stress the objective importance of the chemical and the lack of alternatives, even if the company had put the scientific assessment in on a rather deficient basis.
"Now, having looked at it, SCoFCAH have taken a proportionate and workable decision, as I expected. While the scientific risk assessment for Asulam does highlight some environmental concerns regarding its effect on birds and plants, the reality is that we need more time to fully develop alternatives specifically for bracken control and the sector needs adequate time to prepare for a change. This decision sets down a marker to the industry that Asulam is not where we want to be, and is a gentle nudge to accelerate research into better, cheaper, safer alternatives for use on bracken.
"So while we have to see what the Appeals Committee does with this dossier, I am confident that they will continue to take this proportionate position, allowing the use of Asulam to continue until better, safer alternatives are available. I also hope that we continue to engage with EU scientists in a calm, sensible way in the meantime and into the future, and that my MEP colleagues would refrain from scaremongering for the sake of headlines. Credibility matters: let's not get labelled as the boy who cried wolf or we'll find ourselves without allies when we really need them.
"I will continue to keep an eye on this, but look forward to the industry coming up with a better product."