What may surprise many people, is that although we left the EU single market on the 31st December 2021, as part of the withdrawal agreement, we were committed to bring in regulations on the use of biostimulants in the UK; this was to align the UK with the EU under the EU Fertiliser Regulation, (EC) 219/1009.

The main arguments put forward by the Government for introducing regulation of biostimulants – equivalent to the very heavy regulation for pesticides – are safety of human health and the environment. Afterall, the purpose of regulations is defined by the Policycircle.org is ‘to keep individuals and/or the environment safe’ which is understandable and wholeheartedly supported by the farming industry.

Biostimulant base substances – such as seaweed extracts – are widely used within modern biostimulants, are already safely used within commercial food supplements and cosmetic products and as over the counter nutraceuticals in chemists and health food shops.

So we thought we’d better check with the HSE – Just how many health & safety incidents have there been over the past 40 years with biostimulants?

Answer: NONE ! That’s right, not one!

We made a freedom of information (FOI) request for ‘… Information about incidents involving plant biostimulants requiring HSE reporting or investigating in the last 40 years …’. This should clearly indicate the safety issues that needed to be addressed.

From their detailed response received on the 27th July 2021 they state: “… [we] have been unable to locate any information held by HSE that relates to any incident involving plant biostimulants ….”

Now, we are more than confident that if the HSE had seen serious or regularly recurring issues with biostimulants, they would have created a category and recorded the data over the last 40 years.

The industry is therefore dumbfounded by these proposed new regulations – just how are they going to improve safety to humans or the environment? A reduction in incidents from a starting point of zero is going to be very difficult to achieve!

For the industry, the FOI result did not come as a surprise as many of our members (some with 40 years’ experience) couldn’t recall any such incidents. In jest, one member remarked that the greatest danger came from tripping over the packaging!

As an industry, we must ask is this regulation being introduced to ensure that UK farmers and growers are at an equal disadvantage as the rest of Europe in the ability to produce high quality, lower environmental impact sustainable food? Or is it regulation for regulation’s sake?

Yes the UK is obliged to introduce some level of legislation as part of the withdrawal agreement.

But HOW and WHAT we do to implement this is largely up to the UK Government.

A simple self-Certification scheme (a UK version of CE marking) as exists at present could easily be rolled over to fulfil this legislation.

Otherwise these benign, low-cost natural products will be lost to UK agriculture and we’ll be back to using more pesticides again.

After all – the FOI data from HSE supports the adage “If it’s not broken, why fix it!..”