BCPC attacks abuse of science in amphibian disease

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An article by Jonathan Leake, “Ponds fall silent as toxic cocktail destroys frogs and toads,” appeared in The Sunday Times on Oct. 20, 2013. It cites a report by the activist group ChemTrust, which alleges that agrochemicals are destroying our amphibians, quoting results such as injection tests using DDT, dieldrin and atrazine, which, unsurprisingly, showed immune system effects. It uses the results to implicate modern agrochemicals in the outbreak of the lethal Ranavirus – a disease that affects amphibians – and suggests possible effects in humans.

“DDT and dieldrin have not been used in the UK for decades and atrazine use ceased in 2004. These chemicals bear no resemblance to modern crop protection products,” says Dr. Colin Ruscoe, Chairman of BCPC. “Furthermore, injection assays are completely different from real-world exposure, as they by-pass normal skin barrier and detoxification mechanisms. It is clearly unscientific – and irresponsible – to interpret these as relevant to field situations.”

BCPC is very concerned that such reports, sponsored by anti-chemical activist groups without relevant scientific credentials, and used uncritically to provide sensationalist headlines in the popular press, reinforce bad decision-making. Present-day crop protection chemicals are carefully studied in real-world environments before they are approved by the Government’s Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD). Such reporting is particularly dangerous given the EU Commission’s track record of regulatory decisions driven by politics rather than science – as in the recent ban on neonicotinoids. “Use of inappropriate intrinsic toxicity indicators, as in the Plant Protection Products regulation EU 1107/2009, will trigger de-registration of products. Like many common chemicals, some triazole fungicides have intrinsic activity as endocrine disruptors (EDs); if banned – based on inappropriate tests – the impact would be catastrophic for the EU,” says Dr Ruscoe. “A recent report by the economic research institute Nomisma shows that UK wheat production alone would shrink by up to 1.8 million tonnes by 2020, driving dependence on imports and much higher food prices – with no benefits to wildlife.”

The British Crop Production Council (BCPC) is a non profit-making organization.

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