Friday, 30 September 2011

Asulam - some good news

There is a route that can be followed to make Asulam available into the future.

The meeting organised by United Phosphorus Ltd (UPL) took place in York, yesterday.  In advance of a more detailed statement from UPL, I provide a snapshot of the outcomes of the meeting.  Many uncertainties remain, and there is much detail still to be considered and clarified, but there is a good possibility that the use of Asulam can be retained in the long, medium and short terms.

Long Term

  1. UPL will be reapplying for registration of Asulam in the EU.  This is an investment of many £100,000s and is very much welcomed.
  2. It may take 5 years from now to complete the registration process.
Medium Term
  1. The new EU regulations appear to make it possible to obtain a series of Emergency Authorisations that provide an application window of 120 days in a year.
  2. If application of Asulam is to continue without a break, Emergency Authorisations are likely to be required for 2013, 2014, 2015 and probably 2016, while the reapplication process takes place. 
Short Term
  1. Asulam will be available for 2012 under the use-up provisions.  
  2. The message is that as far as possible it will be business as usual.
  3. During 2012, the contractors (helicopter and ground based companies) will be able to apply Asulam for landowners and managers, providing it was purchased before 31 December 2011.
  4. The advice to landowners is to contact your contractor before 31 October 2011 to ensure your requirements can be met.  
Other points
  • Under the regime discussed in the meeting there will be no justification for 'panic buying'.
  • UPL will be able to meet requests to purchase the normal annual consumption of Asulam before the end of 2011, so that it can be made available for 2012.  
  • The contractors have a limited capacity and their activities are weather dependent.  It is unlikely that they will be able to cope with a surge in demand, next year. 
  • Defra and the Chemical Regulations Directorate of the Health & Safety Executive are the relevant agencies for the whole UK and they were represented at the meeting.  Their help in the process to date was gratefully acknowledged and their continuing support was welcomed.
  • The establishment of a Bracken Control Group will be considered as a way to represent the bracken control industry and provide support for the re-registration process.
Reminder of Key dates
  • 31 December 2011 - no sale, supply, transfer or promotion of products containing Asulam to take place after this date.
  • 31 December 2012 - end of the use-up period.  After this date it will be illegal to apply or store products containing Asulam in the EU. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Asulam - Statement from Defra

I am attending a meeting organised by United Phosphorus Ltd., tomorrow and expect that this will provide some information about the future.

In the meantime, I am attaching a statement that has been issued by Defra.  The most important point here is that Defra is prepared to consider Emergency Authorisations and they will be issuing guidance about this in due course. For the moment, no action is required by land owners and managers interested in using Asulam in the future.

Statement by Defra:

"The UK Government pushed hard for approval.  Although there were some weaknesses in the data supplied by the applicant company, the UK considered that the correct decision within the EU rules would have been approval with confirmatory data requirements.  We also highlighted the important role for asulam in the effective control of bracken in the UK and particularly in protecting habitats of high conservation value.  Seven other countries supported us but this was not enough to win the day.

The result is that the final date for products containing asulam to be sold or supplied is 31 December 2011.  A grace period of one year – ending 31 December 2012 – is then permitted for the storage and use of the product.  Those wishing to use asulam next year will need to make sure that they have made the necessary arrangements to obtain a supply of the product on or before 31 December 2011. 

Any questions on the exact operation of the grace periods for marketing and use of stocks can be addressed to the Communications Branch at the Chemicals Regulation Directorate of HSE: telephone 01904 455775, or by email to

The Government hopes that the company will submit a fresh application for EU approval  of asulam, addressing the concerns raised by the European Food Safety Authority which persuaded the Commission that asulam should not be approved.  However, it will not be possible for a new application to be made and processed in Europe before the end of 2012, as the whole process from receipt of application to approval will take several years

The Government has made it clear that it would be very prepared to consider applications for emergency authorisations to help bridge the gap between the expiry of the current approval and the eventual granting of a new one.  Officials are actively considering how this can best be taken forward so that the process is as simple as possible.  We will issue advice as soon as possible.  In the meantime, there will be no need for any applications for emergency authorisation to come forward  in the near future.  Those interested in the continuing use of asulam need take no action at this point.

The Abbeystead Meeting - 27 September 2011

The Trust's AGM took place at the Inn at Whitewell, on the south side of the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire yesterday.  This was followed by a discussion meeting, The Abbeystead Meeting, which included a visit to the Abbeystead Estate.  As the photo shows this event was blessed with perfect conditions and warm, September sunshine.  I will be posting more information from the event soon, but in the meantime I would like to express my thanks to the people who made this event possible:

  • His Grace The Duke of Westminster for allowing us access to the Abbeystead Estate;
  • Neil Kilgour, the Resident Agent for Abbeystead and our host for the day and a speaker at the meeting;
  • Neil Clark who stepped in at very short notice to represent Natural England's views at the meeting; and 
  • those who attended and contributed to the discussion during this event.
I remain convinced that meetings such as this are valuable, as they bring people from a range of backgrounds together.  Discussions during these events can challenge perceived ideas, but in a productive non-combative way.    It may not be possible to achieve complete consensus, but during discussion it is possible to establish what people and organisations really think as opposed to what they are prepared to say for public consumption.  We need some consensus, as without any it is harder, or even impossible to make progress on the difficult issues of the day.

One person said to me yesterday, the HT approach is welcomed because it is conciliatory.  It was an interesting and welcome comment and one that I am very happy to accept.  The approach is all about bringing people together rather than driving a divisive wedge between people and organisations who may have different views.   As a result of the cross-sector work we carry out, the Trust is, perhaps uniquely, able to promote this approach.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Asulam - Statement from United Phosphorus

The Chief Operating Officer for United Phosphorus Ltd (UPL) in Europe has issued a statement confirming the company's continuing support for Asulam.  He confirms that the company will "proactively seek a derogation for emergency use" and that they are "generating the relevant data set needed to support an application for EU approval, as well as an approval in each Membe State so that we can continue to supply the product in the future."  The full text of the statement can be downloaded here.

This is welcome news.  I am attending a meeting with UPL next Thursday, and will provide further updates as the plot unfolds.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Asulam - Reporting Scotland

The Asulam issue was covered on BBC Reporting Scotland this evening, with a few seconds of input from yours truly (don't blink!)  Follow this link and move to minute 14:00 for the 2:15 minutes of coverage.

More on the Asulam Ban

The Scotsman has published a follow up article to the one published on Saturday highlighting the potential impact of the ban of Asulam.

The Herald has published an article in Scotland with some high level quotes, using a certain amount of artistic license, bemoaning the decision to ban Asulam.

I am attempting to establish what the views of the main players are in the next few days.  I suspect it will be better to avoid knee-jerk reactions and develop a measured strategy to tackle this issue effectively with the support of the bracken control industry.  Consideration must be given to the industry working together so that we speak with one voice, rather than acting as a multi-headed beastie that would lead to mixed messages and confusion.

Inevitably, more information will follow.

Moorland Video Clips

If you are looking for a bit of light relief and some background information about moorland management, have a look at the video clips on the Moorland section of the BBC Nature website. There is some high-quality footage here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wildfire 2011 Conference

This conference was held in Buxton, 14-15 September 2011. I was pleased to be invited to give a presentation at the conference on the subject of “Preparing for Wildfire in the UK".

This presentation can be viewed here and drew on the experience I gained from attending the International Wildfire Conference in South Africa in May 2011.

One of the key messages I came back from South Africa with was that we need to plan for wildfire now, and not treat a wildfire event as exceptional. With climate change producing warmer, hotter summers, the wildfires of early May 2011, just as I left for South Africa, are likely to become more frequent.

As part of preparing for wildfire, I believe we also need to be bolder about reducing fuel loading and this means more prescribed burning and cutting. Maybe we do not need to be so precious about protecting our heathland vegetation.  If we do not manage it properly, it is likely that fire will do it for us and this could easily be at a time of year when great damage will be caused.

It is not if it burns, it is when.  

I plan to write an article pulling some of these ideas together, based on the discussions that took place at both wildfire conferences, and also drawing together some of my own ideas. I will publish this on the Trust's website, in due course.

Asulam - the appeal fails

The news from the appeal hearing is bad and the appeal has failed.  This means that Asulam will be removed from the list of chemicals approved for use in the EU.  It appears that there was not enough support from other Member States.

The expiry date for sale, supply and advertisement is 31 December 2011 and 31 December 2012 for storage and usage.  The Commission has argued that Member States have the scope to issue “emergency authorisations" nationally to tide them over the period required to make a new submission. If this happens, it is likely to take at least 4 years before a decision granting approval is taken in the EU.  Emergency authorisations would be the only option available for authorised use within this period.

I have not got my head round the options at this stage, and I will post more information as it becomes available.  In practical terms, it would appear that bracken control using Asulam will be possible next season (2012), but any extension beyond that will depend on emergency authorisation.

I fall back on the maxim that “where there is a will, there is a way".  I believe that the support for Asulam is considerable and therefore we must find the way so that it continues to be available.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Statement in Support of Asulam

An Appeal Committee meets on Tuesday, 20 September to review the registration of Asulam.  This will determine whether it will continue to be approved for use, and from my perspective this means whether it is available as a selective herbicide for the control of bracken.  It is a vital tool for bracken control; as well as being the only selective herbicide it is the only one that can be applied from the air.

To help Asulam's chances, I have been 'knocking on doors' this week to get support for a Statement highlighting the crucial role that Asulam plays in maintaining the conservation status of vast areas of the uplands and lowlands of the UK.  I have not forgotten the negative impact on, for example, the economics of sporting and agriculture or the human health risks associated with sheep ticks and Lyme disease, but if the Statement was to have any impact it needed to have a single message.  The conservation message has the widest appeal.

The Statement can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Meeting at Abbeystead - 27 September 2011

Following on from the AGM, the Trust has organised a discussion meeting to consider the management issues facing an upland estate, and this will include a site visit to part of the Abbeystead Estate.  The meeting will be held at the Inn at Whitewell, near Clitheroe.  More details here.

Although members will get priority, there are some places available at this meeting.  Please contact the Trust if this of interest.