Defra is to appeal against the judgment of the High Court in the recent case on spraying brought by Georgina Downs. In a debate in the House of Lords earlier this week junior Defra minister Lord Hunt confirmed that Hilary Benn had been given leave to appeal. ‘It is not appropriate for me to go into the details of that appeal,’ he said. ‘But at the end of the day, we all want to see good practice and proportionate regulation.’

A Defra spokesman later said that the High Court’s decision would make it impossible to authorise pesticides for use in the UK. ‘This would have a very serious impact on farming and food production and would put the UK out of line with the rest of Europe.’ The spokesman added that the protection of the health of those who live, work or visit the countryside remained a top government priority.

Goergina Downs expressed her ‘absolute disgust’ at the appeal and accused the government of the ‘utmost complacency.’ ‘Heads should be rolling, following such a landmark High Court judgment, but instead it’s “business as usual” with the government’s relentless attempts to protect the [pesticides] industry as opposed to the health of its citizens.’

As I have tried to argue in earlier postings, any difficult public policy decision involves a balancing of considerations including food security. If fruit and vegetables were less readily available or more expensive, this would have health implications. As I also suggested in an earlier posting, even a non-lawyer could see that the judge was pushing the envelope of what is possible in a judicial review.

There are real public health considerations here, but they would be more effectively resolved through negotiation rather than an adversarial process.

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