The benefits of biological and biorational products in helping to reduce the usage of chemical active substances for the control of pests and diseases in many crops are now well established, especially in protected cropping situations. Legislation already limits the permitted number of crop protection products and the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) found in produce for the safety of workers and consumers. It is true that many retailers impose their own more stringent requirements, but, with the obvious exception of edible plants such as potted herbs, the legislation has not, to date, been applied to ornamentals production.
New regulations for ornamentals?
There are increasing concerns in the industry that a large number of European retailers are currently looking into the possibility of introducing MRLs and pre-harvest periods as “good agricultural practice” in ornamentals production as well as for edible crops. This would be likely to apply to container-grown pot and bedding plants and, where perhaps the greatest impact might be felt, to the cut flower segment. It would potentially include the number of crop protection product residues permitted as well as the levels of residues and could also involve handling restrictions that would seriously affect the way growers work with the crop during the production cycle and at harvest in terms of the exposure of workers/operators to the products used.
Under European regulations, all crop protection products are subject to a set of “Transfer Coefficient Values” (CTVs) as a mitigation measure against the transfer of active substances from a crop to the skin and the possible associated risks. Both synthetic chemistry and biological products will be bound by the same standards for dermal absorption and handling period restrictions, and all manufacturers and their products face the same requirements. It is of concern that we could see significant differences between the EU and the British regulatory frameworks, potentially putting British production in a disadvantageous position as the market becomes less attractive to manufacturers. It is, therefore, to be hoped that if Europe is already looking to implement these changes, the British regulatory authorities will impose a similar system in the UK.
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