Monday, September 16, 2019

Legal challenge overturns ban on metaldehyde slug pellets

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

A government decision to ban metaldehyde slug pellets has been declared unlawful following a High Court challenge.

The High Court challenge was brought by Chiltern Farm Chemicals – one of the UK’s biggest suppliers of molluscicides. It disputed the government’s decision to ban pellets containing metaldehyde and decided to take legal action.

Following the action, the High Court approved an order by the company that challenged the legality of the ban. The order formally overturns a Defra ruling to withdraw all products containing metaldehyde with immediate effect.

“Metaldehyde is back on the market,” said Philip Tavener of Chiltern Farm Chemicals.

Business as usual

“The sell-out and use-up periods previously put in place no longer apply – it is business as usual.  Chiltern is ensuring that supplies of metaldehyde slug pellets will be available with immediate effect from their normal distribution channels.”

In legal terms, the government’s decision to ban the pellets required former Defra secretary Michael Gove to form his own view about the impact of metaldehyde products on non-target species – but Mr Gove did not do so.

Under the ban, sales of metaldehyde pellets ended on 30 June. But Mr Tavener said: “A few days before a hearing was due to take place in the High Court, the government conceded that its decision-making process was flawed. The decision was unlawful.”

Some growers have already switched away from metaldehyde pellets in the wake of the ban. Agrii regional advisor Will Fosses said he had been pleasantly surprised with the performance of ferric phosphate pellets.

Mr Tavener said Chiltern Farm Chemicals continued to dispute the environmental impact of its products on non-target species. “We have been working with the industry for over 10 years, as part of the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group to steward the responsible use of these products.

Pest management

“In 2017 an enhanced MSG stewardship programme, that had been approved by officials at the Chemicals Regulation Division, was launched and introduced new buffer zone requirements, promoted reduced usage and the adoption of integrated pest management.”

Retaining metaldehyde in the market meant growers continued to have a choice of slug pellets products. It provided farmers and householders alike with an important, reliable and trusted treatment for controlling the arable and garden sector’s most damaging pest.

The court order confirms that applications for product re-authorisation remain outstanding. Defra must now decide afresh as to whether it will grant re-authorisation for the products or revoke existing authorisations.

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