Row over import controls moves to ECJ

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is set to face a challenge in the European Court of Justice to its approach over control provisions designed to regulate the import of pesticides into the UK.

Mr Justice Popplewell has referred the case following a challenge mounted by the British Agrochemicals Association which represents 37 members of the agrochemical industry.

They will argue that arrangements made by the MAFF for importation of pesticides are unlawful because they contravene EC directive 91/414.

At the end of the recent High Court hearing Mr Justice Popplewell said he had concluded that any decision in the case involved serious questions of community law and that this necessitated a reference to the European Court of Justice.

He said British Agrochemicals claimed that 1994 control arrangements implemented by the MAFF breached European law. He said they allowed a formulation into the UK market without full testing which the MAFF described as "identical to a product already approved by testing procedure".

British Agrochemicals argues that there is nothing in the EC directive that allows for one pesticide to be given speedy clearance for the UK market simply because another similar formulation had been previously tested and approved under the directive.

It claims the regulations require each new formulation to be fully tested before being placed on the market.

The MAFF argues that if the challenge is upheld it will result in an unnecessary doubling up of vetting procedures. They say it is well established under EC law that where an imported product is identical to a product already authorised in the UK a further full authorisation procedure is not justified.