Withdrawal of metaldehyde for outdoor use announced

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The Environment Secretary has announced that the application forauthorisation for professional and amateur slug pellet products containing metaldehyde has been refused.

The decision to prohibit the use of metaldehyde, follows advice from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and small mammals.

Slugs can cause significant damage to plants and crops, particularly potatoes, cereals and oil seed rape. However, there are other ways to mitigate their impact through soil preparation. For example, sowing the seed deeper into the soil may prevent the slugs from reaching them. There are also alternative pesticides containing ferric phosphate which provide effective control of slugs and snails without carrying the same risks to wildlife.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

I recognise that significant effort has been put into encouraging growers and gardeners to use this pesticide responsibly by the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group. However, the advice is clear that the risks to wildlife are simply too great – and we must all play our part in helping to protect the environment.

I encourage companies and growers to look at the alternatives, such as ferric phosphate, which is authorised and does not carry similar risks.

The outdoor use of metaldehyde will be phased out over 18 months to give growers time to adjust to other methods of slug control. It will be legal to sell and distribute metaldehyde products for outdoor use for the next six months, with the disposal, storage and use of existing stocks permissible for a further 12 months.

The decision has been met with great disappointment from both the professional and amateur metaldehyde stewardship groups.

David Cameron, chairman of the group representing professional uses, the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG), says the news comes as a blow to the agricultural industry, who have worked collaboratively to safeguard this key active ingredient for slug control, since 2008.

Ben Shapiro, representing the Amateur Metaldehyde Stewardship group (MSA) says; “We are continuing to consult with Defra surrounding the sell-out period for the amateur uses of metaldehyde products.”

The groups wish to thank the industries for the support and investment in stewardship measures that have been adopted.

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