Research from Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, Sustain Alliance and trade expert Emily Lydgate claimed the UK could face dramatic increases in highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) in food staples should a trade deal with India be rushed.
The report claimed that the UK would likely face considerable pressure to water down pesticide standards from the Indian government, which was “infamous for lobbying aggressively against protections”.
Josie Cohen, head of policy and campaigns at PAN UK said: “Pesticide regulations aren’t bargaining chips, they are there to protect people’s health. Watering them down to secure a new trade deal would create serious public health risks at home whilst also making our farmers less competitive abroad.
‘Recipe for disaster’
“Deals of this size typically take years to complete – rushing through negotiations without fully thinking through the consequences is a recipe for disaster.”
A trade deal agreed with India could see Indian-produced staples flood the market, which contain significantly higher levels of HHPs than their UK equivalents. The PAN report highlighted that India allowed the use of 62% more HHPs than the UK in produce such as rice, wheat and tea.
The reporter also warned that the double standard could hand foreign businesses a competitive advantage and undercut UK farmers, with a potential loss of about £10m in domestic agricultural output.
Dr Emily Lydgate, reader in environmental law at the University of Sussex, said: “The Indian government has a long record of lobbying to relax levels of permitted pesticide residues, and UK negotiators will inevitably face pressure to weaken domestic regulation.