Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Proposed rat poison ban killed by EU vote

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

A proposed ban on the commonly used rat poison ingredient 'difenacoum' was narrowly defeated at a meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg last Wednesday.

There had been fears that a ban on the use of anti-coagulant in rodenticides could lead to an explosion in the rat population and could potentially threaten human health.

If the ban had been approved by the EU, most of the main brands of rat poison would have been banned from the market.

Some 304 MEPs voted in favour of restrictions on the anti-coagulant substance but the restrictions were rejected by a majority of 334 MEPs.

Earlier this year, Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson warned that a ban on difenacoum could lead to an infestation of rodents not seen since the bubonic plague.

The rat poison controversy was part of a wider debate on the Biocides Directive, which is designed to update EU rules that govern products ranging from insect repellents to water treatment chemicals. Biocides are chemical substances capable of killing living organisms, usually in a selective way.

The EU Parliament voted to ban the most toxic chemicals, especially those that are carcinogenic, harmful to fertility or interfere with genes or hormones. It also tightened up requirements to gradually replace other hazardous substances with less harmful alternatives.

However, MEPs agreed that even highly toxic substances may, at times, be needed to protect human health, other animals or the environment, and rat poison qualifies as one of those exceptions.

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The move has been welcomed by IFA grain committee chairman Noel Delany as "simply common sense".

"The rat population must be controlled for public health reasons and farmers need the freedom to use posions when and whether they are needed," he said. "I am happy that MEPs voted against this ban."

Tell-tale signs

- Rats produce around 40 blunt spindle-shaped droppings a day, each about 12mm x 3mm in size.

- They leave footprints and tail marks along their habitual pathways.

- Rats have a characteristic odour that permeates any building where a colony lives.

- They gnaw at doors and other objects (left) to keep teeth short and sharp. They are capable of chewing through mild steel.

- Smears on walls are from grease on the rats' bodies as they brush against them.

Irish Independent