Chemicals tax to curb usage

Pesticide resistance in Danish arable crops may increase following the introduction of a new tax system aimed at reducing the use of harmful products according to a Danish scientist.

The changes in taxes in Denmark were outlined by Lise Nistrup Jorgensen, senior scientist in the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, Denmark, at the Foundation for Arable Research's arable research in action field day at Chertsey recently.

Since 1996, a value added tax system for pesticides had been applied in Denmark. Since 1998, the tax had been 33% for herbicides, fungicides and growth regulators and 50% for insecticides.

A new indicator called pesticide load had been developed recently for ranking the potential impact of pesticides on health and the environment. Since July, this had replaced the former value-based tax, Mrs Jorgensen said.

The Danish Government had asked for a 40% reduction in the pesticide load per hectare by 2015, based on substitutions by less harmful products.

As certain pesticide groups would be favoured by the new tax system, it was expected that the system could lead to more problems related to pesticide resistance.

Overall, the system would motivate farmers to minimise chemical use as much as economically feasible.

Mrs Jorgensen said there were severe fines for farmers found to be breaking the law.

She said Danish farmers did not use as much pesticide as neighbouring countries but it was driven by economics rather that government measures.

''It's driven by more money in the pocket by the end of the day.''

Asked if there had been any change in the acreage of crops because of the pesticide strategy, Mrs Jorgensen said there had been no increase in winter wheat or spring malting barley.

The only change was that there was more maize grown for cattle feed, with beet being replaced with maize.

The requirement to provide a buffer zone around waterways had led to much discussion around compensation for landowners, she said.

By Maureen Bishop.