In Court

Published: Monday 15 December 2008

victory over pesticide: A high court in the UK ruled that the government has failed to comply with its obligations under an EU directive to protect rural communities from exposure to toxic chemicals during spraying over crops.

The ruling came after seven years of campaign by Georgina Downs, founder of the UK Pesticides Campaign. Downs suffered flu-like symptoms, sore throat, blistering and other ailments at the age of 11, following exposure to pesticides sprayed on a farm near her home in West Sussex, in southern UK. Over the years, she collected evidence that other members of her community also suffered similar problems, besides cancer, asthma and Parkinson's disease. She told the court that the government had failed to protect the residents "who were repeatedly exposed to a mixture of pesticides".

The court said that Downs had produced "solid evidence" and asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to rethink its policies and assess health risks from long-term exposure to pesticides. Citing a 1986 regulation that requires beekeepers to give a 48-hour notice to people before spraying pesticides, the court asked the department to inform residents of imminent spraying and of the composition of pesticides used.

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