HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc434-5W
Mr. Skeet

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has yet received advice from the advisory committee on pesticides about the herbicide 2, 4, 5-T in the light of the report released in the United States of America in March about miscarriage rates in Oregon.

Mr. Wiggin

Yes. The chairman, Professor R. Kilpatrick, has written to my noble Friend, Lord Ferrers, in the following termsWhen in March this year I submitted to the then Parliamentary Secretary (Mr. Gavin Strang) the Advisory Committee's Reference Document on the herbicide 2, 4, 5-T, I foreshadowed an evaluation by the Committee of the Report which the US Environmental Protection Agency had recently released following field studies on miscarriage rates in Oregon. The Committee has now considered the Report and questions its findings. In the first place, the Report relies upon data which the Committee cannot accept, notably because in their view the stated abortion rates are not valid in either scientific or statistical terms. Secondly, the Committee cannot discern from the Report any satisfactory evidence that those recorded as having experienced miscarriages were in fact exposed to 2, 4, 5-T either generally or at the levels specifically deployed for the correlation that is developed in the Report. The Report acknowledges that correlation does not necessarily mean causation ': the Committee do not believe that a correlation between miscarriage rates and 2, 4, 5-T usage has yet been shown. In these circumstances, the Committee do not regard the Oregon Report as affording any grounds whatever for questioning the large body of evidence they have already examined and upon which they have founded their consistent advice that 2, 4, 5-T can continue to be safely used in the recommended way for the recommended purposes. They are therefore satisfied that there is no justification for any change in the conclusions set out in paragraph 25 of their recently released Reference Document; and they have noted that the Australian and New Zealand authorities have independently examined the Oregon Report and have also reached the conclusion that it justifies no further restriction. The Committee will of course be reviewing any further data or information which becomes available in future, whether from the US or other sources, about possible risks attaching to the use of this herbicide.

The Government accept the committee's advice.