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Jointly issued by HSE, , DOH & DTLR 285/01  11th December 2001


A Judicial Review of the Government's decision to suspend approval for the sale and use of pesticides containing dichlorvos has been completed. In his judgment Mr Justice Crane rejected most of chemical manufacturer AMVAC's arguments but considered that the Government had given the company insufficient time to make representations on their conclusions.

Minister for Health and Safety, Dr Alan Whitehead, and Minister for Food and Farming, Lord Whitty, said in a joint statement:

"We are disappointed in this judgment but it is important to recognise that Mr Justice Crane did not object to the substance of the Government's decisions: he also upheld most aspects of the Government's procedures for taking precautionary measures to protect public health. Indeed, he recognised the need for urgent action but considered that we acted too hastily at one point in that process.”

"We are pleased that the judgment now allows the full publication of the minutes of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) on which the Government's act was based and which had been suppressed because of the preliminary injunction.”

"We will now ask the ACP to reassess their advice in the light of the new material provided by AMVAC.”
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"We will then consider urgently any further recommendations made by the Committee."

"Both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD), which register pesticides on behalf of Government, will consider the implications of this case for the handling of future cases. We recognise that it is important that companies have sufficient opportunity to comment. We will continue to place the greatest priority on the protection of people and the environment."

The court action was brought by AMVAC Chemical UK Ltd against and DTLR. AMVAC Chemical UK Ltd challenged a regulatory decision of Ministers on the approval of pesticides products containing dichlorvos.

The grounds for the challenge were that AMVAC had not been properly informed of the proposed regulatory action or the basis for it and had not been given sufficient time to make representations. AMVAC also claimed that Ministers had not given proper regard to the precautionary principle and to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judgment of the Court was issued on 3 December. Mr Justice Crane rejected most of the company's submissions, including those concerning the precautionary principle and the Convention on Human Rights. He ruled that the company had been given insufficient time to respond to the conclusions of the Government's expert advisers prior to regulatory action being taken. He accepted that the matter was urgent but considered that the claimant had now had full opportunity to present any further material.

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Professor David Coggon, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP), added:
"In July 2001, we advised Ministers that there could be a small risk of cancer from dichlorvos in those people who use it over prolonged periods and that the sale, supply and use of products containing dichlorvos should therefore be revoked as a precautionary measure. In formulating this recommendation we took account of advice from the Committee on Mutagenicity (COM).
"Dichlorvos is used in a number of household insecticide products and is important for certain sectors of the horticultural industry. The advice to revoke these products was to protect householders and other users of dichlorvos from a remote but potentially serious risk."
A Court Order awarded in AMVAC's favour prevented the Government from taking or publishing any regulatory action until the judgment on 3 December 2001.

Notes for editors
1. All pesticides are controlled under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 and the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 and the Control of Pesticides (Northern Ireland) Regulations 1987. Without specific approval, no pesticide may be advertised, sold, supplied, stored or used.
2. The Advisory Committee on Pesticides, set up under the 1985 Act, is an independent committee of experts that advises health and agriculture Ministers on the safety of pesticides. Its advice is provided to the Department of Health, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Ministers in the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, and the Food Standards Agency. Its meetings are attended by officials from these departments, and from the Health and Safety Executive and 's Pesticides Safety Directorate who jointly provide the Secretariat for the Committee, and act as the agents of the above Ministers in the issuing of approvals, suspensions and revocations for pesticides.

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3. The Committee on Mutagenicity (full title, the Committee on Mutagenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment) is an independent committee of experts reporting to the Chief Medical Officer (Professor Liam Donaldson) and the Chairman of the Board of the Food Standards Agency (Sir John Krebs). COM provides advice to Government departments and agencies.
4. Dichlorvos is an organophosphate. The Health and Safety Executive and are conducting a review of all anticholinesterase compounds (organophosphorus and carbamate pesticides) in pesticide products approved under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 and the Control of Pesticides (Northern Ireland) Regulations 1987. These reviews are being conducted to reassess the risk that agricultural and non-agricultural pesticide products present to consumers, workers and the environment. This review programme does not cover use of these compounds for other purposes, for example use in human and veterinary medicines (including use as sheep dips - but note that dichlorvos is not used in sheep dips) as these are authorised and subject to scrutiny under separate legislation.
5. Further information: The minutes of the ACP meetings can be found on the website of the Pesticides Safety Directorate of : The statement and minutes of COM's consideration of dichlorvos are expected to be published shortly on the Department of Health website: Further information on the approval