13 June, 2022

In May our Head of Science, Margaret Wexler, spoke at a parliamentary event on pesticides. Organised by The Pesticide Collaboration and RSPB, and hosted by Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport.

The purpose of the meeting was to highlight the effects of pesticides on health and the environment. Margaret spoke about the harmful effects of certain pesticides on human health, focusing on breast cancer. The event was held to mark World Bee Day and the 60th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which highlighted the damage that the widespread use of pesticides was doing to the natural world.  

Why pesticides?

Pesticides have allowed us to increase food production. But, this has come at a cost to human health and the environment. The meeting heard about the impact of pesticides such as neonicotinoids on honeybee populations and – on a more positive note – how nature-friendly farming can be productive and sustainable and reduce reliance on pesticides.

MPs were encouraged to support farmers in reducing pesticide use through land management and were urged to commit to setting pesticide reduction targets. And, stop emergency approvals for banned pesticides such as neonicotinoids and strengthen pesticide regulation. This includes restricting pesticides that are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and ensuring pesticide authorisations are based on the precautionary principle. 

Speakers included Stephanie Morren, Senior Policy Officer at the RSPB and the Pesticide Collaboration, Professor Dave Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Dr Margaret Wexler, Head of Science at Breast Cancer UK and Martin Lines, arable farmer and UK Chair of the Nature-Friendly Farming Network.  

What can you do?

Chemical pesticides against weeds, plant diseases and pests are banned in all organic food production in the UK (see here). While organic food contains less pesticide residue than conventionally farmed foods, it is unclear whether eating organic food reduces breast cancer risk. This is because there haven’t been enough studies in this area. However, given the likelihood that long-term pesticide exposure may increase breast cancer risk, we recommend eating organic food or food produced with little or no pesticide, where possible. To identify fruit and vegetables grown organically, look for organic logos.

We recommend reading our specially designed factsheet here. We explain pesticides, the benefits of organic food and the breast cancer risk in relation to pesticides.

Are you passionate about removing harmful chemicals such as pesticides from our food and the environment including everyday products? Sign our pledge here to help get EDCs banned.

Without your support, our work would not be possible.  Donate today to help fund vital animal-free research on the causes of breast cancer.  Together we can prevent breast cancer.

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