HC Deb 19 March 1963 vol 674 cc199-200
30. Mr. Darling

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether the research work undertaken by his Department, and by other bodies which report to him, into the effect of pesticides and other toxic sprays on animals, birds and insects, also includes research into the probable cumulative effects of chemicals which remain toxic for long periods in the soil.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Darling

In which case can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us where the research is being conducted, by whom, and where the result can be obtained, because there is a great deal of anxiety among scientists and people generally about the possible cumulative effects of these sprays remaining in the soil? Up to now no one has given any information at all about the research being undertaken in this matter.

Mr. Freeth

The relevant research is being done at the Agricultural Research Council's National Vegetable Research Station in collaboration with the Plant Pathology Laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture; by the Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the Government Chemists' Laboratory and at the Weed Research Organisation and Rothamsted Experimental Station. Accounts of the work appear in the Annual Reports of these bodies.

Mr. Edelman

Has the hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the serious charges made by the distinguished scientific writer, Rachel Carson, in her book "Silent Spring", in which she states that many of the pesticides commonly used are carcinogenic? In those circumstances would he refer this important matter not merely to the Agricultural Research Council but to the Medical Research Council?

Mr. Freeth

On the whole question of pesticides and co-ordinating research we have the Fraser Committee set up especially for this purpose, and I understand that it is doing an excellent job of work.

Sir G. Nicholson

Has my hon. Friend read "Silent Spring", by Rachel Carson and, if not, will he read it and also make it compulsory reading for his Department? Is he aware that in that book a totally new line is taken on this subject and that his Answer is just not good enough?

Mr. Freeth

I and all the senior members of the Department have read this book, but a large part of it refers to practice and experience in America and is not applicable to experience in this country.

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