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Pesticides, sheep dips and science.

THE regulation of pesticides has been politically controversial and provided fertile ground for single-issue protest campaigns and pressure group activity throughout the industrialised world. Pesticides and veterinary medicines include a wide variety of biologically active and dangerous substances which are designed to control diseases in crops and animals. Concern about the hazards of pesticides in the UK goes back at least to the early postwar years, for although their use arguably has many benefits for society, including improved agricultural productivity and food quality, it also poses a potential threat to humans, animals and the environment generally.(1) The 1979 report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, for example, identified the widespread use of toxic chemicals as one of the most worrying developments of modern farming. In the 1960s, Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring provided a focus for public unease and much of the impetus for subsequent protests against pesticides containing DDT. More recently, although safer pesticides have been developed, protest campaigns have been waged against the use of products such as organophosphates.(2) The modern use of organophosphorous (OP) compounds in agriculture developed from the work of scientists in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, work which more disturbingly contributed to the development of chemical weapons and nerve gases. Concern was already evident fifty years ago about the impact on wildlife but there has been increasing worry about the potential adverse effects on humans of low-level, long-term exposure. More recently, there has also been much speculation about a connection to `gulf war syndrome' and to the suicide in 1997 of Gordon McMaster, the Labour MP, who himself linked his tiredness, depression and severe mood swings to overexposure to OP pesticides during his work as a gardener.

In its concern with dangerous chemical products such as OPs, the role of the state is essentially regulatory. A wide range of interests are involved in a complex administrative system--industrial manufacturers, workers, farmers, environmentalists, and domestic users. The Ministry of Agriculture is the lead department for the approval and supply of agricultural pesticides and veterinary medicines, working through its executive agencies. The Health and Safety Executive, on the other hand, an agency of the Department of Education and Employment, oversees the reporting of incidents, and the use of hazardous substances in the workplace; compliance with regulations rests primarily with its agricultural inspectors. Other features of the British administrative style are also found here--a preference for voluntary arrangements (although a statutory scheme for pesticides was introduced in the mid-1980s), reluctance for state agencies to be pro-active in extending controls, and the incremental development of legislation.

There are two parallel administrative structures for pesticides and veterinary medicines. OP compounds are used in a wide range of agricultural products, but sheep dips are regulated as veterinary medicines rather than pesticides because the matter is classed as one of animal health. This has some important implications: while the pesticides approval process is relatively open, that for veterinary medicines is subject to the stricter confidentiality provisions of the Medicines Act. Overall policy on OP sheep dips lies with the Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with the Health departments, acting on the advice of an independent Veterinary Products Committee of scientific experts such as vets, pharmacists and toxicologists. The main administrative institution is the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, now an executive agency. It has a general duty to ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of veterinary medicines in the UK, safeguarding the health and safety of farmers, workers, consumers and the environment generally as well as that of animals. It is responsible for the licensing of products, administering the suspected adverse reactions surveillance scheme (both important in the sheep dip debate), the regulation of manufacturing premises and monitoring residues in meat. It provides policy advice to Agriculture ministers after consultation with other agencies, departments, the veterinary profession, the pharmaceutical and livestock industries, and consumer and other organisations. EU institutions are also now relevant.

Although OP compounds are found in everyday products such as wood preservatives and flea collars, they are predominantly used in agriculture where high levels of productivity and the economic prosperity of farmers has become increasingly dependent on extensive chemical and fertiliser use. Their use to counteract problems such as sheep scab has become increasingly controversial and given rise to a persistent protest campaign for tighter regulation. For example, a 1995 enquiry by the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, ostensibly focused on the organisation of government agencies for pesticides and veterinary medicines, prompted numerous submissions on the issue. The first OP sheep dip had been authorised in 1972 and sales peaked in 1984: OP products accounted for some 95% of the entire sheep dip market before 1993/4, falling to 60% then and continuing to decrease. The first suspected adverse human reaction was reported in 1985, and ten years later the Veterinary Medicines Directorate had received some 570 such reports involving 656 individuals. The Ministry of Agriculture attributed a fall in the number of reports of adverse reactions between 1993 and 1995 to tighter controls on the use of OP products. However, the number of suspected cases had increased in the four years before 1993 and this could be consistent with long-term effects, with the subsequent reduction in reports due to less use of OPs following adverse publicity. On the other hand, the government has argued that because the use of OPs has been falling steadily, the sudden increase in reports of suspected adverse reactions in the early 1990s is explained by much greater awareness of the issue.

Despite a persistent and vigorous campaign against the use of OP sheep dips, supported to some extent by established bodies such as the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, the government has resisted all calls to limit the availability of OP products. Precautions on the use of OP sheep dips have become increasingly stringent however; for example, all those involved in sheep dipping with OPs are now required to hold a certificate of competence, introduced because many farmers were not using adequate protective equipment. A four-year research programme was also announced by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1995, after a report by the Institute of Occupational Health suggested that OPs could harm the human nervous system. Nonetheless, the constant official position, based on the advice of the Veterinary Products Committee, has been that there is insufficient scientific evidence to justify a ban on OPs which are perfectly safe to use provided that the recommended precautions are taken. As the Minister of Agriculture told the Agriculture Committee in 1995, if evidence was forthcoming, the department would ban OP dips as it had banned other products in the past. This position has since been repeated. Moreover, although the Labour Party was critical whilst in opposition, it has also acknowledged that there are difficulties in introducing a ban. The issue is thus generally regarded as one where the primary determinant of government action is technical and scientific evidence rather than ideology or public opinion.

OPs and public protest(3)

Essentially, the protest campaign has been directed at the use of a small number of sheep dip products containing OP chemicals. The first preference of many of those involved is for a total ban on the use of OP sheep dips, but fall-back positions include an immediate moratorium pending the outcome of a full public enquiry and, at the very least, much stricter regulation. The campaign has been persistent, regionalised and relatively low key, but has flared into general public consciousness on several occasions. Although the number of individuals who have reported health problems as a result of OP exposure is measured in hundreds rather than thousands, the issue arouses much wider concern amongst workers manufacturing the products, users such as farmers and gardeners, doctors and other health specialists, consumers worried about residues in meat, and those concerned more generally with the adverse environmental effects of chemical use.

At the core of the protest are those lobby and self-help groups organised to assist individuals who are convinced that their health has been directly affected by OPs. Most notable in this respect are the Organophosphates Information Network (a successor to the South West Environmental Protection Agency which was set up after the Camelford incident), the National Action Group and the Pesticides Exposure Group of Sufferers. The last, established in 1988 and based in Cambridge, has over 450 documented cases of health damage as a result of exposure to OP sheep dips, provides counselling for sufferers and publicises the issue. The National Action Group was set up in 1991 to press for recognition of the problem by a Devon farmer forced to quit the industry because of health problems associated with OP use. Also reflecting the geographic location of many of the reported cases, the Cornwall-based Organophosphates Information Network, an independent group, campaigns strongly, arranges meetings, counsels, acts as a focal point for over 600 sheep farmers who have suffered from chronic ill-health through OPs, and is an important information resource. It also acts as a political protest group, coordinating the input of a growing number of sympathetic scientists, lawyers, doctors and journalists. One recent development has been the formation of the OP Scientific Forum of independent scientists who work closely with the Network. There are also links with the various groups representing Gulf War veterans. The approach, therefore, combines voluntary action and protest with more conventional political tactics. Small demonstrations are occasionally mounted outside places to be visited by ministers but much emphasis is put on the collection of reliable case data and scientific evidence which can be presented to the relevant authorities.

For some commentators, this sort of approach, involving self-help, loosely organised local groups forming networks of interaction, and a concern with lifestyle, is linked to a new politics centred on protest campaigns and social movements rather than more traditional party and pressure politics.(4) In this interpretation, new forms of political mobilisation emerge alongside more conventional patterns. Moreover, social movements question several of the central tenets of advanced industrial society and established political processes. Some of this is clearly evident in the OP sheep dip issue where campaign groups such as Friends of the Earth use individual case histories in an attempt to ensure that OP sheep dips are banned but also to influence public consciousness and promote a cultural shift in attitudes. The protest is thus part of a wider challenge to what are regarded as the excesses of chemical-dependent modern industrial agriculture. Indeed, Friends of the Earth has a long history of campaigning against pesticides in this context. Organisations such as the Pesticides Trust, a science-based charity concerned with their health and environmental implications, also promote the development of safer alternatives and reduced use of chemical products. However, one important criticism voiced by groups such as the Soil Association, representing organic farmers who do not use OPs, is that the alternatives are generally much more expensive. Moreover, the costs imposed by the regulatory system prevents the development of more environmentally friendly products by small companies and result in a bias towards the large chemical companies committed to producing toxic pesticides with a large market potential.

Media exposure is vital and is perhaps the most important tactic of the anti-OP campaign. Much of the protest is directed at gaining official recognition that a problem exists, and coverage in the press and TV is central to achieving the cultural shift sought by many of the critics of OPs. Individual campaigners and `dissident' scientists also play an important role, not least in drawing attention to the issue. People such as Mark Purdey (the Somerset farmer who describes himself as an environmental journalist and toxicologist and who was one of the first to draw attention to the issue in the mid-1980s) work assiduously through conventional and unconventional channels. The OP issue was initially contained within established political parameters, for example Purdey's submission to the Agriculture Committee's 1987 investigation into the effects of pesticides on human health and in the letters pages of Farmers Weekly, the journal of the National Farmers' Union. However, the issue has impinged more directly on wider public consciousness, demonstrated by significant media exposure in popular press, radio and television. Much press coverage of the effects of OPs followed the death of Gordon McMaster MP and has also surrounded the debate about Gulf-War syndrome. The issue has been raised in many factual TV and radio programmes; for example in 1997 a two-part World in Action documentary covered the wide range of OP use. Perhaps the clearest sign of the way in which the debate on the use of OPs in sheep dipping has seeped into the public realm has been its incorporation into episodes of fictional programmes such as The Archers and the TV series Mortimer's Law.

More conventional political channels have also been used. The issue has been aired frequently in Parliament, both in the investigations of the Agriculture Committee and in debates and questions. Sympathetic MPs such as Tom King and Jean Corston have voiced a concern which transcends party boundaries and which reflects its relevance to region and constituency. Anti-OP campaigners were also lucky in that the Countess of Mar, a sheep farmer who herself has suffered from OP exposure, was able to exploit her membership of the House of Lords to highlight the issue. As a vocal campaigner on Gulf War syndrome as well, her activities demonstrate the close connections between the two causes. There is evidence, however, that opponents of OP use are bypassing the established political processes and are putting increasing emphasis on action in the courts. Faced with government opposition (attributed by some to a desire to evade liability for damage to human health from compulsory sheep dipping), trade unions have taken up complaints from members about adverse health effects, pursuing cases of individual redress and at the same time participating in the wider campaign. As the Transport and General Workers Union (representing agricultural workers) has commented: `We support a ban totally... We will be supporting full compensation claims for our members. This is a battle in the war against pesticides.' Whilst some regard judicial action as inappropriate because of the difficulty of identifying liability, negligence and causation, claims on behalf of members for compensation against employers are increasing. It is also likely that many cases have been settled out of court. In February 1998, for example, in what could herald a flood of similar compensation claims, a shepherd represented by Unison obtained an 80,000 [pounds sterling] out-of-court settlement from Lancashire County Council. This case also demonstrated a commonality of interest between the sheep dip critics and the groups representing Gulf War veterans which welcomed the settlement in the belief that it would strengthen their campaign for a full investigation into the use of chemicals and OPs during the conflict with Iraq.

The vested interests

For many critics of OP use the villains of the piece are those stuck on the treadmill of industrial agriculture--the Ministry of Agriculture, the chemical companies and the National Farmers' Union. Friends of the Earth argues, for example, that problems with products such as OP sheep dips have arisen `largely because the power and influence of MAFF and the chemical companies has gone unchallenged for so long: it is only in the past few years ... that grassroots and media pressure have forced a change.' Indeed, it is partly the difficulty of challenging such entrenched interests successfully which leads many of the campaigners against OP use to find alternative channels of expression. As the organisation representing many of those affected or at risk, it might be expected that the National Farmers' Union (NFU) would be at the forefront of the anti-OP campaign. In fact, it has experienced acute internal difficulties as grass-roots pressure and mounting other evidence have forced it to take the OP issue seriously. It sponsored a joint seminar with the British Medical Association in June 1995 at which its leadership was subjected to sustained criticism from the floor, and there was a groundswell of opinion in favour of a ban amongst those who attended. Much of the protest came from farmers in south western counties, where the NFU regional director was well known for his antiOP views. A Somerset farmer said `I am glad that the NFU have actually got off their backsides and got this meeting today but I wish they had listened before.' However, the dilemma for the NFU leadership is that many sheep farmers have suffered no ill-effects. An NFU representative described these critics as `a silent majority who are not represented noisily in this room'.

So although many grass-roots members of the NFU have complained about OPs, the problem is that a majority have used such products without adverse effects and the leadership maintains support for a policy of industrial agriculture based on the continued use of chemicals. Its leadership declares confidence in the existing regulatory system. (Some critics attribute reluctance to act to its close links with the NFU Mutual insurance company and the payout costs if a definite link were established between OPs and ill-health.) Whilst the concerns about OP sheep dips are taken seriously, the NFU points out that the relevant compounds are licenced and very useful to farmers. If serious adverse effects are proved to result from their proper use, then they will be banned through the regulatory process, just as other dangerous substances have been withdrawn in the past. It therefore tries to reassure members, while providing regular advice on sheep dips to make farmers more aware of the symptoms of exposure and encouraging the use of protective clothing, and it promotes research into the effects of OP exposure as well as into safer alternatives. The result, according to Friends of the Earth, is that farmers have little confidence in their Union and `have been forced to turn to voluntary bodies for the support and help they need to tackle their problems and find their way through the maze of laws and regulations'.

If the organisation representing most sheep farmers is somewhat ambivalent on the OP issue, no such uncertainties beset those who manufacture the products. For pesticides and veterinary medicines there are influential organisations representing manufacturing companies, the British Agrochemicals Association for the former and the National Office of Animal Health for the latter. They maintain that what is important is accurate information, a choice of products and the minimisation of risk rather than a total ban on OP sheep dips. Clearly any successful protest campaign against OPs would threaten the profits of the manufacturing companies concerned and they lobby strenuously against stricter controls, arguing that the costs of more regulation threatens the availability of a wide range of affordable animal medicines. In a mirror image of the Friends of the Earth critique, the manufacturers complain about the undue influence of the environmental lobby and of government departments or agencies such as those for the environment, health and safety at work. The National Office of Animal Health believes that the Ministry of Agriculture needs to defend its territory against encroachment from other departments trying enlarge their power and introducing costly legislation.

For some people, there is an unhealthily close relationship between the Ministry of Agriculture and the manufacturing companies, with the National Farmers' Union making up the unholy trinity. Fears of regulatory capture are heightened by the fact that much of the funding of the approvals and licensing work of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate comes from the pharmaceutical industry. There is unease, for example, about the location in the same agency of responsibility for the approval of veterinary medicines and the investigation of adverse health effects. Some argue that this makes the ministry reluctant to promote a reduction in chemical usage. Trade unions tend to argue that safety aspects of regulation should be given to the Health and Safety Executive to avoid potential conflicts of interest, together with more resources for enforcement. However, allegations of collusion with the ministry are disputed by the chemical companies, which describe the relationship between the industry and its regulators as `tense rather than cosy'.

Public protest and professional opinion

Phrased in terms of the well-known pressure group typology, the anti-OP campaign is essentially `outsider' in so far as the groups involved have found it difficult to get their voice heard in the corridors of power. For the OP Information Network it has been a long struggle to persuade ministers and civil servants of the seriousness of the issue, the official attitude being described as `smiling indifference' and `hitting a brick wall'. However, there is evidence of increasing access to government (including the Ministry of Agriculture) and of a greater willingness to listen to the concerns of the OP protesters, particularly since the election of the Labour government in 1997. Nonetheless, it is the `insider' groups such as the organisations representing farmers and manufacturers which have had the ear of government and the established links with the Ministry of Agriculture. The result is that the protest campaign combines traditional lobbying techniques with alternative approaches such as the formation of self-help groups and attempts to use the media to change public attitudes. The OP Information Network provides journalists with reliable material on which to base stories.

Established political forms are also challenged by the anti-OP campaign in another important way. It is not simply a matter of using unconventional techniques but of calling into question the very procedures themselves through which official decisions are taken. Regulation of dangerous chemical products, such as those contained in pesticides and animal medicines, has always been fundamentally technocratic. Scientific research and expertise are of crucial importance in many areas of government policy. Dependence upon experts to interpret ambiguous, if not contradictory evidence, influences both the nature of the policy process and the manner in which problems are understood. `Thus, scientific teams are inevitably drawn into the process of policymaking and the type of expertise that is called upon will be significant in giving lay policy-makers an understanding of the problem.'(5) As a result, the debate on OPs reflects a fundamental dispute about the role of government in complex technical areas, about the role of scientific research and advice, and about relative value of scientific knowledge and lay expertise. Government policy on OPs relies heavily on the experts: the advice of committees such as the Veterinary Products Committee, is invariably accepted. In evidence to the Agriculture Committee in 1995, the Minister of Agriculture, William Waldegrave, stressed the need to make decisions on difficult technical issues like the effects of OPs on the best available scientific evidence and lamented the intrusion of populism into such matters. Moreover, where alternative research-based advice was offered, he said `It is very unwise for a minister, in my view, to depart from the clear advice of his or her scientific advisers in these matters.'

This view seems to be supported by the NFU. Decisions about whether particular products should be banned or not are the responsibility of government, guided by advisory committees of independent experts: `It is improper to ask an association of farmers whether they want a chemical banned or not. We do not have the expertise.' According to the National Office of Animal Health, ministers were being forced onto the defensive by pressure from an `alliance of an unsympathetic media and radical pressure groups' and needed to recognise `the real damage that is being done by their attempts to appease and even pre-empt criticism'. What is needed is `a science based' licensing system, not the addition of `ephemeral, politically correct criteria to the international standards of safety, quality and efficacy'.

Critics of the use of OPs, on the other hand, are much more questioning of the science-based approach. Whilst opponents of OP sheep dips have worked within the legitimate channels of politics to a certain extent, they also challenge the whole technocratic approach to the issue. This reflects the problematic nature of science in contested contemporary areas such as risk assessment and the nature of environmental hazards. They question first the `burden of proof' argument. What is needed is a `precautionary approach' which recognises the limits of scientific knowledge: users, workers, consumers and the environment, therefore, must be given the benefit of the doubt and dangerous products should only be approved when all reasonable concerns about their safety have been removed.

The second strand of the argument about scientific expertise, sometimes called the democratic critique, holds that `the primary problem is the failure of the regulatory agencies to incorporate a full enough range of values into their decision making'.(6) This is allied to criticism of the cloak of secrecy which surrounds the British policy process and to the way in which the legalistic and technocratic nature of established procedures disadvantages public protest groups. The democratic response is more lay representation on scientific advisory committees and for a more open and accessible decision-making process. Studies in the USA show that a crucial feature of the `new politics of pollution' is the break clown of older specialist policy communities composed of a limited number of producer representatives, politicians and bureaucrats, and the incorporation of new groups and interests, including consumers and environmentalists.(7)

Resources are also crucial. Friends of the Earth has a reputation for technical competence, the professionalism of its staff and its ability to put forward viable alternatives. Its overall strategy and claims to legitimacy rest `on the technical rationality of its arguments rather than on its ideals. Accurate information is seen as the most important prerequisite for effective action'.(8) Indeed, as its intellectual authority has increased, the organisation has put much less emphasis on unconventional tactics such as direct action, although a media-centred approach remains. In the OP campaign, the Friends of the Earth case was put comprehensively in the 1993 publication Scab Wars, which rehearsed the history of OP use, the effects on sufferers and the technical arguments, then called for the complete withdrawal of OP sheep dips. It has been argued that one of the reasons for increasing openness of policy communities on environmental issues is that organisations such as Friends of the Earth have been able to `demonstrate technical competence, both in the way that they were able to challenge the premisses of policy and in the way that they were able to exploit the political opportunity structures that were open to them'.(9)

Although the voice of environmental and public health groups and of consumer interests has become increasingly heard in the UK, the policy community on relatively invisible issues such as veterinary medicines remains closed and specialist. Besides demonstrating expertise, therefore, it is vital for opponents of OPs to open out and democratise the debate, not least because the well-resourced manufacturing interests are able to control the research agenda within the narrow confines of established technocratic structures. This situation has been exacerbated by the decrease in state funding which means that research expenditure is increasingly met by the chemical industry itself. The dominance of the research agenda by manufacturers often means that it `may well not pose the questions, let alone provide the answers to important community, consumer and user concerns about pesticide safety that the rest of us wish to have addressed'.(10) As the Farm and Food Society comments, for example, `independence, and impartiality, hitherto the cornerstone of scientific debate, can no longer be taken for granted. What is and is not published, is to a large extent dictated or influenced by companies financing research'.

It is in this context that protest movements and campaigns challenge conventional political structures which confine the debate to a handful of powerful interests and scientific experts. Here the case of OP sheep dips links to wider debates about the risk society and the tensions between experts and lay knowledges.(11) There is a view that risk society is characterised by the politicisation of science and a situation in which experts `are relativised or dethroned by counterexperts. Politicians encounter the resistance of citizens' initiatives, industrial management that of consumer organisations. Bureaucracies are criticised by self-help groups'.(12) For others, the problem is the failure of the mainstream scientific community to take account of lay specialisms, expertise and concerns: as a result the `healthy scepticism and common sense of some members of the public and non-expert groups now appear to be closer to the truth on pesticides than the views of certain groups in the scientific and medical community'.(13) The public authorities tend to be dismissive of such lay or unofficial expertise. For example, Mark Purdey's memorandum to the Agriculture Committee's 1987 investigation was disparaged by the ministry as `unsupported', `flawed', `questionable interpretation' and `lacking both objectivity and accuracy'. Going further, established notions of scientific knowledge and certainty have been questioned, not just because of `scientific' disagreements but because `Vernacular, informal knowledge which lay people may well have about the validity of expert assumptions about real world conditions is usually systematically under-recognised.(14)

For many critics, therefore, it is the conventional technocratic approach itself which has contributed to the emergence of serious problems such as the adverse health effects of exposure to OP products. Indeed, in a 1987 report the Commons Agriculture Committee drew unfavourable comparisons between the British regulatory system and those in the USA and Canada, characterised by greater openness and the incorporation of a wider range of interests. As early as 1981 the Health and Safety Commission drew attention to the need to involve representatives of users, workers and the community generally in the risk evaluation process alongside the scientific experts. The Transport and General Workers Union has campaigned for formal and effective representation for those with experience of problems in the field including worker and consumer representatives, environmentalists and developmental bodies. Even the National Office of Animal Health has argued for outside observer seats on expert committees in order to allay suspicions' about regulatory capture and give reassurance about the operation of the system.


The recent debate over the use of organophosphates highlights a number of themes in the general area of protest campaigns. Such campaigns do not necessarily mobilise large numbers of individuals and can just as easily be small-scale and localised. Exposure to OPs has directly affected hundreds of individuals and there is a clear regional character to the incidence of suspected cases, with most concern in the south west of England. Another characteristic is the low party-political salience of the issue. Concern about the potential health problems arising from OP use links MPs of all parties. In this respect, the rural and regionalised nature of the OP campaign is more important than ideology or party allegiance. Partly this is a consequence of the regulatory nature of the issue but, more importantly, also of its high technocratic content. Media exposure is especially vital to those groups striving to highlight the nature of the problem, especially where the public authorities are reluctant to recognise its scale or even existence. Obtaining cover in the popular press and broadcast media is linked to the desire to effect a cultural change amongst the public generally, as well as the attempt to secure a specific political objective. The media also report court cases; indeed, increasing recourse to the judicial system may be seen as another way in which traditional political processes are increasingly by-passed. Bodies at the core of the campaign, such as the Organophosphates Information Network, the National Action Group and the Pesticides Exposure Group of Sufferers are also of a markedly different nature from the more institutionalised pressure groups. These are more like loosely organised voluntary action groups, with no real formal structure or leadership. In addition, although they are concerned to gain official recognition of the problem of OPs and stricter regulation, they also act as conduits for self-help, counselling and the dissemination of information. This core is supported by a number of more established groups, ranging from those concerned with the environment such as Friends of the Earth to trade unions primarily concerned with the health of their members. Importantly, many of these anti-OP protest groups share a belief that they are largely excluded from the established political channels which are dominated by their `opponents', namely those with a vested interest in the maintenance of chemical-dependent agriculture such as the Ministry of Agriculture, the manufacturers and the National Farmers' Union. This perception of `outsider' status is important in understanding the tactics adopted by the groups, particularly the focus on media attention. However the challenge to conventional political forms also occurs in the way organisations such as Friends of the Earth question the very nature of the regulatory system. Long-established practices and procedures involving the incorporation of scientific expertise are confronted from the perspective of democratic or representative politics. In a risk society it is no longer acceptable for issues such as the safety of OPs to be decided within a technocratic structure. A wider range of interests, covering users, manufacturers, consumers, environmentalists and citizens generally, need to be incorporated into the decision-making process, buttressed by greater openness and freedom of information. This is what is particularly important about protest campaigns such as those on OPs--they not only draw upon a variety of conventional and more unconventional tactics in order to change government policy on specific issues, but they also embody a fundamental challenge to some central elements of the established political and policy system in Britain.

(1) See e.g., N.W. Moore, The Bird of Time: The Science and Politics of Nature Conservation (Cambridge University Press, 1987).

(2) See R. Norton-Taylor, Whose Land is it Anyway? (Turnstone Press, 1982), p. 158; S. Jasanoff, The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policymakers (Harvard University Press, 1990); A. Irwin, Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise and Sustainable Development (Routledge, 1995).

(3) This account draws largely on the views of pressure groups and individuals provided in the House of Commons Agriculture Committee report on the Pesticides Safety Directorate and Veterinary Medicines Directorate (1994-95, HC 391); the report of the NFU seminar on Organophosphate Sheep Dips and Human Health (2 June 1995); the British Medical Association, Pesticides, Chemicals and Health (Edward Arnold, 1992); Friends of the Earth, Scab Wars: The Impacts of Organophosphate Sheep Dips on Farmers, Livestock and the Environment (1993).

(4) See e.g., P. Byrne, Social Movements in Britain (Routledge, 1997).

(5) A. Weale, The New Politics of Pollution (Manchester University Press, 1992), pp. 7-8.

(6) Jasanoff, op. cit., p. 16.

(7) C. Bosso, `Transforming Adversaries into Collaborators: Interest Groups and the Regulation of Chemical Pesticides', Policy Sciences, 1988; A. Nownes, `Interest Groups and the Regulation of Pesticides: Congress, Coalitions and Closure', Policy Sciences, 1991.

(8) P. Lowe and J. Goyder, Environmental Groups in Politics (George Allen & Unwin, 1983), p. 127; see also Byrne, op. cit.

(9) Weale, op. cit., p. 29.

(10) A. Watterson, `Pesticide Health and Safety Policy in the UK: A Flawed and Limited Approach?', Journal of Public Health Policy, winter 1990, p. 495.

(11) See Jasanoff, op. cit.; Irwin op. cit.; S. Lash, B. Szerszynski and B. Wynne (eds), Risk, Environment and Modernity: Towards a New Ecology (Sage, 1996).

(12) U. Beck, `Risk Society and the Provident State' in Lash, Szerszynski and Wynne (1996), pp. 32-5.

(13) Watterson, op. cit., pp. 497-8.

(14) B. Wynne, `May the Sheep Safely Graze? A Reflexive View of the Expert-Lay Knowledge Divide' in Lash, Szerszynski and Wynne, op. cit., p. 59; see also J. Clark and P. Lowe, `Cleaning Up Agriculture: Environment, Technology and Social Science', Sociologia Ruralis, 1992.
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Title Annotation:Protest Politics: Cause Groups and Campaigns
Author:Greer, Alan
Publication:Parliamentary Affairs
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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