HC Deb 22 April 1970 vol 800 cc113-4W
Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement concerning the use of the weedkiller 2, 4, 5-T, in view of the United States decision to impose certain restrictions on the use of this material.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes:

The American authorities have imposed restrictions on some of the uses of 2, 4, 5-T, hitherto permitted in the U.S.A. and have advised on precautions to be followed where the chemical is used.

According to preliminary information from the U.S.A. this action was taken because some American preparations contained dangerous concentrations of a highly toxic impurity and because evidence made available only last week from further tests on nearly pure 2, 4, 5-T taken from current American production suggests that when injected in large doses it may produce deformities in unborn mice.

It should be made clear that the material as manufactured and used in the United Kingdom contains only a trace of the impurity. The scientific sub-committee of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides and Other Toxic Chemicals reviewed the use of 2, 4, 5-T in 1965 and again in March of this year in the light of further information. It found no reason to change the recommendations for safe use. Nevertheless, when notified of the American action I requested a copy of the new evidence as a matter of urgency. This has arrived today and I am arranging for the Advisory Committee to examine it immediately. I will make a further statement as soon as possible.

This substance has been in use here for 10 years and no harmful effects have been shown to be associated with its use. Pending the outcome of the examination of the new evidence I do not think I would be justified in imposing limitations on our current uses. But I must emphasise that all agricultural chemicals should be handled with care and used strictly in accordance with the instructions on the label.