Scottish Bubonic Plague Not Imminent

Large Helping Of Rat Poison Humble Pie For Struan

Alyn Smith MEP for Scotland has today (Thursday) welcomed the passage of the final legislative agreement revising EU rules on biocides, specifically dealing with product approvals and active substances in the products.

He has also gently taken to task his ebullient Scottish colleague Struan Stevenson, suggesting that he may wish to apologise for his hysterical and misleading claims over the issue which misled and upset so many people across Scotland to no good purpose and for no good reason when it was quite clear that early suggestions were going to be ironed out via the legislative process.

Claims in the press when the agreement was progressing through its first reading stage in 2010 that the agreement would see an end to most or all rat poisons leading to "an infestation of rodents not seen since the bubonic plague hundreds of years ago" were widely reported in the press, despite not being supported by any evidence. Alyn, at the time, was castigated by many for his more reasoned stance on the issue, but today's vote proves him right.

The final text as was voted on today is an entirely sensible compromise and contains the same wording as it did at first reading. Article 5, paragraph 2, subsection (b) reads: "active substances referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article may be approved is shown by evidence that the active substance is essential to prevent or to control a serious danger to public or animal health or to the environment" (see bottom of page for the exact text of the whole Article) clearly allowing continued use of such rodenticides as is necessary.

With a wry smile, Alyn said:

"Just today, in another debate in Strasbourg, Struan suggested that instead of 'beware of the bull' signs on farm gates we should perhaps have 'beware of the bullshit' and I can only agree!

"I can well remember the breathless furore in spring and summer 2010 when the initial drafts of this report were progressing through the Parliament at first reading. I can also remember my frustration at seeing headlines that were, in every sense, the result of reputable journalists and industry leaders being misled by irresponsible and inaccurate scaremongering.

"Headlines like "'Crazy' EU proposal to ban rat poison" or "If Europe can't control its rats we may have to call the Pied Piper" - usually accompanied with some comment about those crazy Green MEPs lodging unworkable amendments designed to send Scotland back to the dark ages - may have been good sport but upset and misled a lot of people across Scotland, leaving them confused and cynical about the work public servants are doing in their name.

"Anti-EU headlines will almost always get press coverage - and usually the dafter the better. I've done a few myself, before I matured a bit!

""EU bans Christmas", "EU bans Mr and Mrs" or "EU to outlaw bagpipes" are some of my favourites but it appears that despite the impressive coverage they received, we are still celebrating Christmas and we can still refer to each other as Mr or Mrs and as Burns night approaches I suspect the skirl of the pipes will be heard here and there. Deliberate misreporting of the work of the European Union shows politics at its worst; deliberately distorting the truth, simply in order to get in the papers. Worse though, it engenders confusion, cynicism and apathy amongst our citizens over what is a major part of our government, with just as much need for active citizen participation.

"Biocides have potentially very serious impacts on public health and the environment and it is right that they are properly regulated and labelled. That is a serious discussion and we need the help of people to contribute to that process. It is actively held back by politicians, and others, being too quick to be wilfully daft."

Article 5, paragraph 2 in the final compromise text reads:
2. Without prejudice to Article 4(1), active substances referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article may be approved if it is shown that at least one of the following conditions is met:

(a) the risk to humans or the environment from exposure to the active substance in a biocidal product, under realistic worst case conditions of use, is negligible, in particular where the product is used in closed systems or under other conditions which aim at excluding contact with humans and release to the environment;

(b) it is shown by evidence that the active substance is essential to prevent or to control a serious danger to public or animal health or to the environment; or

(c) not approving the active substance would cause disproportionate negative impacts for society when compared with the risk to human health or the environment arising from the use of the substance.

When deciding whether an active substance may be approved in accordance with the first subparagraph, the availability of suitable and sufficient alternative substances or technologies shall be a key consideration.

The use pursuant to this paragraph of any biocidal product containing active substances approved in accordance with this paragraph shall be subject to appropriate risk mitigation measures to ensure that exposure of humans and the environment is minimised. The use of the biocidal product with the active substance concerned shall be restricted to those Member States where the conditions of this paragraph are met.