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Fish Legal forces open the filing cabinets of Government pesticide licensing body

21.12.09

Sheep for cypermethrin

In a ground-breaking Decision, over three years in the making, the Information Commissioner has overwhelmingly endorsed Fish Legal’s case that hitherto secret and redacted Environmental Risk Assessments of pyrethroid sheep dip must be disclosed in full.

Although currently suspended from the market, pyrethroid sheep dips have been responsible for huge damage to invertebrate and fisheries in upland streams and rivers across the UK.

In his Decision (FER0137609), the Commissioner has ruled that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA):

- did not deal with Fish Legal’s request for information according to the law;
- did not deal with Fish Legal’s request within legal time limits;
- unlawfully withheld information relating to emissions to the environment;
- unlawfully refused to disclose information in order to protect the commercial confidentiality of sheep dip manufacturers;
- was not entitled to refuse to disclose information to protect manufacturers’ intellectual property rights;
- was not entitled to refuse to disclose information on grounds that it was the subject of internal communications

Guy Linley-Adams, former Head of Legal at Fish Legal said:

“We believe this decision now drives a coach and horses straight through the cosy licensing procedure for all veterinary medicines and pesticides in the UK.

If residues of these or any other pesticides can find their way into the wider environment, they are to be considered as ‘emissions’ under European law. This has the effect of lifting the cloak of commercial confidentiality that has for so long shrouded the licensing of pesticides in the UK.

Public authorities cannot by law keep secret environmental information relating to emissions to protect manufacturers’ commercial confidentiality.

Over the three years this has taken, we have always believed that this would be the Commissioner’s decision.”

Fish Legal, acting on behalf of anglers across the UK, believes that the risk to the aquatic environment of the use of synthetic pyrethroid dips in real farm situations is just too great and now calls on the Government to make the current temporary suspension permanent.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of Fish Legal and the Angling Trust said:

“Fish Legal, and the Anglers’ Conservation Association before it, has battled for years on behalf of our members to win access to this information, which is vitally important to the investigation and assessment of environmental damage from these pesticides.”

NOTES 


1) In October 2005, the Anglers’ Conservation Association (now renamed Fish Legal) made a request to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for copies of the Environmental Risk Assessments, documents supplied by the manufacturers to the VMD as part of the process of obtaining a marketing authorisation.
 

2) In February 2006, under huge pressure from the Anglers’ Conservation Association and other conservation and angling groups, the VMD announced the temporary suspension of synthetic pyrethroid sheep dips, due to unacceptable aquatic damage being caused by the sheep dips in normal use.
 

3) The Information Commissioner has taken over three years to consider this case and come to a decision.
 

4) The current ‘temporary’ suspension of synthetic pyrethroid sheep dips remains in place.

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