HC Deb 25 July 1962 vol 663 cc1463-5
14. Mr. Darling

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the fresh evidence of the dangerous long-term effects of synthetic insecticides and other toxic sprays on birds, animals, fish and human beings, a copy of which has been sent to him, whether he will put in hand an investigation into the claims made by the manufacturers of these sprays, with a view to the introduction of regulations to prohibit the sale of all sprays that are not completely safe and harmless to all animals and fish.

Mr. Soames

I am obliged to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to the recent series of articles in the New Yorker on possible dangers arising from the use of pesticides. These articles do not appear to contain fresh evidence, and I am satisfied that the arrangements we already have in this country for investigating new agricultural pesticides before they are put on the market provide adequate safeguards for human beings and wild life.

Mr. Darling

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the most frightening aspect of these articles is not in the articles themselves but in the expert evidence quoted that the poisons remain in the soil, that persistent and repeated spraying is killing wild life, birds, animals and fish in the streams, and that there is evidence that the poisoned soil is causing diseases in animals which may well be transmitted to human beings? Would he not agree that in these circumstances and in view of the long-term prospects of the continual poisoning, we ought to ban immediately many of these sprays?

Mr. Soames

No, Sir. The technical and scientific advice to me on this matter is that there is nothing new in the way of evidence in those articles that was not already known at the time when the research study group went into the whole question and produced a report which has been accepted both by the medical authorities and by wild life interests in this country.

Mr. Bullard

Will my right hon. Friend keep a sense of balance about this? As well as studying the articles in the New Yorker, will he also pay special attention to the report of the committee to which he has referred and which was presided over by Professor Sanders? Will he not agree that there is nothing particularly healthful in having crops messed on by birds, pigeons, rabbits, and other animals, and that we need to create a paradise for people as well as for pigeons?

Mr. Soames

There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says, and I can assure him that I shall do my best to maintain a sense of balance.

Mr. Darling

Will the Minister bear in mind that much of the expert medical and scientific evidence in America has contradicted its previous views on these sprays and that it is the long-term effect of the sprays which is now causing concern? Although we may not want crops dirtied by birds, we certainly do not want crops which will cause cancer in animals and human beings.

Mr. Soames

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should make too much out of this from the articles that have appeared in a magazine. As he knows, the greatest precautions are taken and no dressing or pesticide is allowed to be used unless it has been tested and passed.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his approach today, no doubt unwittingly, might be interpreted as being complacent? Does he not recollect that the Estimates Committee last year recommended a full inquiry into the effects of chemicals in industry both on natural life and human life? Does he realise that there is a problem here? Although he may be perfectly right in taking this comforting attitude will he institute a comprehensive inquiry into a matter that is causing immense anxiety to all interested in natural life and human health?

Mr. Soames

Yes, Sir. I can assure my than. Friend that the most helpful report and recommendations of the Committee to which he has referred have in fact been implemented and that there is constant research going on into this.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We have dealt with only fourteen questions by four minutes past three. I desire to renew my request to hon. Members to keep supplementary questions short.