Farming falls to ludicrous EU nitrates order

THE imminent farming crisis as a result of the nitrates directive is a far greater scandal than mere official mismanagement in Ireland.

The whole EU directive is in fact based on a ludicrous misinterpretation of the relevant science.

Yet the effect of the Government’s legislation, temporarily suspended, will virtually destroy internationally competitive dairy farming in Munster - despite the fact that significant nitrate pollution of drinking water is extremely rare, and falling.

The EU directive stems directly from a WHO recommended standard for drinking water limiting nitrate content to 50mg/litre, but specifically aimed at developing countries.

The WHO’s reasoning is that higher nitrate levels are implicated in a blood disease called methaemoglobinaemia.

As the WHO rightly states, this is a disease largely confined to malnourished and infected babies in developing countries who are bottle-fed using unsterilised surface water. It is extremely rare otherwise. By the way, breast-fed babies are immune.

For those interested in learning more, or concerned that ‘nitrates may cause cancer,’ a recent comprehensive review of all the relevant scientific studies was published by an international team of eminent scientists (reference: Environmental Health Perspect.113:1607-1614). They concluded that, apart from the baby victims of methaemoglobinaemia, the very numerous studies had produced no clear verdict regarding harm.

Farming in Ireland is therefore to be sacrificed for no valid reason whatsoever. There are, in fact, no malnourished sick babies in Ireland who are bottle-fed from puddles, and no evidence that Irish citizens face harm from nitrates in drinking water.

Indeed the Environmental Protection Agency itself reported that in the year 2000, only 0.23% of 141,955 drinking water tests showed nitrates in excess of 50mg/litre, which was a far lower percentage than they found to be infected with dangerous faecal bacteria.

Fertiliser applications have been falling nationally since 2000, so any conceivable threat is lessening in any event. What does this tell us about the Government’s public health priorities?

Farmers are simply victims of a hideous and ignorant political bureaucracy that has gone completely mad, and subservience to an unaccountable EU government.

Bill Bailey

Kilcascan

Ballineen

Co Cork

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