Pesticide Action Network UK (Pan-UK) and the Soil Association have just published a report called the Cocktail Effect which looks at how produce, soil and water contains a cocktail of different pesticides.
Whilst the regulatory system in the UK is designed to assess the safety pesticides on an individual basis. This mixture of pesticides can affect the health of both humans and wildlife. The report examines the extent that the cocktail effect is a problem in the UK and potential impact on human health and environment. It also describes the failures of our regulatory system to protect us from the cocktail effect and makes recommendations for what needs to change.
There is a growing body of evidence that pesticides can become more harmful when combined, a phenomenon known as the ‘cocktail effect’.
In 2017, 87% of pears, 64% of apples and a quarter of bread contained a cocktail of pesticides. The testing data from 2018 from Government shows residues of 157 different pesticides, including 63 known, possible or probable carcinogens, and 41 suspected endocrine disruptors.
Josie Cohen from Pan UK said “Because of the overuse of pesticides in UK agriculture, we are constantly exposed to a wide array of different chemicals which can interact to become more toxic creating a “cocktail effect”. Yet government continues to assess the safety of just one pesticide at a time. The truth is we simply have no idea of the human health and environmental impacts of long-term exposure to hundreds of different pesticides.”
“The UK Government has committed to reducing pesticide use, but the support farmers need to transition away from pesticides simply isn’t in place.” said Rob Percival from the Soil Association. “The Government urgently needs to support farmers to adopt nature-friendly, agroecological approaches that don’t rely on pesticides, including organic, to better protect both human health and the natural world. Brexit poses real threats to food and farming, but it also provides an opportunity to do things differently, if the right policies and legislation are put in place.”
The report recommends key actions be taken by the UK Government to protect people and nature, including:
The introduction of a pesticide reduction target and system for monitoring the impacts of pesticide cocktails on human health and the environment
Ensure post-Brexit trade deals with non-EU countries do not put British farmers at a disadvantage by allowing imports of poor quality food laden with pesticide cocktails.