The Sixth Report of the Joint Committee of the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on Toxic Chemicals in Collaboration with the Game Research Association July 1964 - December 1966
In our Fifth Report (July 1965) we made a number of radical proposals for improving the controls on the persistent organochlorine pesticides. Primarily we argued that the welcome extension of the restrictions on the use of the more toxic of these substances, such as aldrin and dieldrin, would put an increasing strain on the voluntary system of control. It was therefore essential to give legal backing to the control measures to ensure their effectiveness as well as to protect the responsible manufacturers and importers. We proposed also that a system of maximum permitted residues in foodstuffs, as operating in the U.S.A., should be instituted both as a safeguard against possible dangers to human health and as a protection for British producers against unfair competition from countries where restrictions on the persistent organochlorines were less severe or non-existent. Finally, we stressed the need for adequate records to be kept of pesticides used, for the effective disposal of containers and unwanted stocks, for more educational courses for commercial users and contractors, and for improved labelling.
Two official reports published in late January 1967 have adopted our recommendations almost in their entirety. The Advisory Committee on Pesticides has proposed that the present voluntary system be replaced by a compulsory licensing scheme, with full legal backing, to control the manufacture, import, sale and use of pesticides, to ensure that labelling and advertising are regulated and to extend the keeping of records of use. Appearing at the same time, the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee's Report recommends that early steps be taken to obtain more information on the amounts of aldrin and dieldrin in food and that meanwhile statutory limits should be laid down for the residues of these two chemicals in food sold in the United Kingdom. The recommended limits are 0.1 parts per million in food generally, understandably reduced to 0.02 p.p.m. for baby foods and 0.003 p.p.m. for liquid milk, but less comprehensibly made ten times greater at 1.0 p.p.m. for mutton.
The Government is still studying these two Reports and it has not yet announced whether it is prepared to accept and act on these recommendations. If, as is to be hoped, it does so, and when time has been found for the necessary legislation, Britain will take the lead in the safe control of agricultural and horticultural chemicals, a minority of which have aroused grave concern because of the threat to wildlife, and caused fears that the increasing pollution of the environment might affect human health in the long term. Moreover, the limitation of the residues allowed in foodstuffs could have beneficial effects well beyond this country; it will be remembered that the New Zealand Government was one of the first to impose restrictions on organochlorines, as a direct result of their meat products being stopped from entering the U.S.A. because a consignment had been found to have residues above permitted limits.
Meanwhile the Advisory Committee has announced a further review of certain organochlorine pesticides and their effects, and the evidence which follows was submitted to the Government in April 1967. It is based firstly on the analyses of residues in the bodies of birds and other animals sent to the R.S.P.B. and secondly on various lines of research undertaken by the B.T.O., G.R.A., R.S.P.B. and the Golden Eagle Survey intended to ascertain and monitor the possible effects of toxic chemicals on wildlife.