Asulam has been removed from a list of chemicals approved for use within the European Union because of safety fears about its occasional use on spinach. However this herbicide, most commonly sold as ‘Asulox’, is mainly used to fight the spread of bracken (ie. Pteridium aquilinum) in moorland areas of Europe and estates should be concerned about the potential implications of this ban.
Asulam is the preferred chemical available to control bracken and its loss will not be a blow to efforts to manage moorlands. There are even fears that a potential explosion in unmanaged bracken will result in an increase in people contracting Lyme’s disease. This is because bracken is a favoured habitat of several species of ticks which can transmit the infectious disease to people.
It was hoped that common sense would win the day when in 2007 six member states, the UK, Ireland, France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said no to the proposed ban. But that wasn’t enough and the decision was referred to an EU appeals committee. Subsequent lobbying of the representatives on that committee fell on deaf ears and the appeals committee upheld the decision to ban Asulam.
As a result, all EU members states must withdraw the registration of any products containing Asulam, and stocks of the herbicide must be used by the end of 2012. Thereafter countries will have to demonstrate that they need an emergency derogation to continue to allow its use. United Phosphorus Ltd (UPL) in Europe, who produce the herbicide under the product name ‘Asulox’, are hoping they can get Asulam readmitted to the approved list. However, due the amount of bureaucracy involved, that won’t happen until 2016 at the earliest.
Following the ban on the use of Asulux for reducing the spread of Bracken on heather moorland by the E u r o p e a n Foo d S a f e t y A u t h o r i t y due to its adverse effect on food safety, once again the shooting estates can be seen to be putting their birds before the safety of people and the environment.
Make no mistake Asulux is a deadly poison and should not be used near water courses which is the commonest area to find bracken sprayed by these estates. The commonest method is by areal spray which can drift over many water courses. Once in Northumbria swimmers bathing at an upland pools were covered with this deadly poison when sprayed from an helicopter which passed over-head!
The commonest way to increase bracken growth in the uplands is by the use of fire used by these estates to burn heather. Not only does burning encourage the spread of Bracken but it also damages the very ground most of this heather is growing on. The recent court case against the Wuthering Moor by Natural England was against the use of fire on the moor so why has the ‘Bracken Control’ Group got a representative from Natural England on its list of advisers? The reason being that Natural England are worried by the presence of Bracken on lowland heathland not upland moorlands which is where the majority of the Bracken is found.
The Heather Trust are the co-ordinators of this group which include mainly the shooting and farming interest but curriously there is no mention of real alternatives for the removal of Bracken. With the Lake District National park also represented on the group you would feel that they would be pushing alternatives around the ‘public’ park not continuous use of chemicals which can effect the public health as well as damaging the water courses which make up so much of the Lake District.
The one big alternative is planting trees in the Bracken. This would create biodiversity and aid some of Britain’s rarest game birds including Black Grouse and Capercaille. In many cases Bracken can be removed due to the lack of light, competition and the return of more species of flora. So why is the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust not pushing this method of control as they also a member of this group. Most of the areas where bracken is now common was once covered by trees before mismanagement reduced the hill sides to open ground. No they all want heather for one game bird the Red Grouse.
Read what the friend to Eagle Owls, Richard Benyon MP has been writing, details of which are included as a pdf file in the Documents on the Bracken Control web site. -http://www.brackencontrol.co.
Some of his first words are ‘Bracken Control is vital for the protection of Heather Moorland’. Richard Benyon of course would not have any interest in Red Grouse would he!!
As for the so called experts at Liverpool University, have come out in support of chemicals to control Bracken. Sadly again these experts have no practical experience with the job in hand claiming that under grazing is expanding Bracken in the uplands where in fact Natural England claim this is not the case.
Next Bracken causes stomach cancer. Well this was Japanese folk eating the fronds as if it was Asparagus. Well what about the spread of ticks and Lyme disease. Ticks are found in all vegetation from mountain to sea level so by removing the Bracken the ticks would use other vegetation like heather even grass if it was allowed to grow on our fells!
Not once do any of these organisations hint that the EU ban is for the benefit for public health. To speak out would go against the interests of the Red Grouse moor owner and his birds, so we should all shut up and keep paying our taxes for the benefit of the Red Grouse while public health is ignored.