§ The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ To what extent the organophosphate pesticide Demeton-S-Methyl is currently used in the United Kingdom; how use of this chemical compares with other organophosphate pesticides; and how many reports of incidents attributable to this chemical have been recorded by the Health and Safety Executive.
My Lords, Demeton-S-Methyl is approved for professional use in agriculture only. It is used on a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops and is of particular importance to growers of brassicas. Demeton-S-Methyl accounts for about 10 per cent. of the crop area treated with organophosphate pesticides and about 5 per cent. of the total weight of such pesticides applied to crops. In the five-year period to 31st March 1995, 44 incidents involving pesticides containing Demeton-S-Methyl were reported to the Health and Safety Executive. Twenty-three incidents were investigated in which adverse health effects were claimed, but in only nine cases did HSE find it confirmed or likely that ill-health had been caused by exposure to a pesticide.
§ The Countess of Mar
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his very full reply to my Question. Is he aware that in the United States of America manufacturers have withdrawn this product from the market and that it is no longer licensed there because of concern about its teratogenetic effects; that is, the birth defects that it may cause? It is also a known mutagen. As it is a class 1 hazard organophosphate, is any consideration being given to the cessation of production in this country?
My Lords, I am aware that the product is currently under review. I am not aware of the problems in the United States and I shall draw them to the attention of my colleagues.
§ Baroness Turner of Camden
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Transport and General Workers' Union, many of whose members work on farms, is concerned about the effects of this chemical and believes that it should be banned? Will he inform the House of the present situation in regard to the new pesticides forum, which was referred to at col. 193 of Hansard in the debate on 6th February?
My Lords, I do not have with me information on the pesticides forum, but I shall certainly write to the noble Baroness. In regard to the concerns 318 of the Transport and General Workers' Union, this is an old and well established pesticide. We do not believe, looking at its history, that there is any evidence that it is wildly more dangerous than any other organophosphate pesticide, but all these chemicals have to be treated with the greatest care.
§ The Countess of Mar
Is the noble Lord aware that when this matter was last reviewed in 1993 only six pages of information were provided? Most of those pages said that there was no information on the effects of this pesticide. That is to be compared with OP dichlorvos, where the information amounts to 136 pages. Does the noble Lord appreciate that we do not know what this stuff does and therefore we should not be using it?
My Lords, "not knowing what this stuff does", as the noble Baroness puts it, is a characteristic shared by many older pesticides because they were introduced at a time when that information was not required. All such pesticides are in the course of being reviewed. But we draw comfort from the fact that it has been in use for 30 years without the appearance of any known major or unusual problems.