Risk or Hazard?


Why EU Health and Safety measures pose a huge risk to British agriculture

I daresay most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the difference between “hazard” and “risk” – and if they do, they perhaps conclude that they mean much the same thing.  However in the Health and Safety business, they are quite different things.  A hazard is a danger associated with a product or substance (or activity), whereas a risk is a hazard modified by the probability of harm occurring.

Perhaps an example will make it clear.  Take the petrol that you put into your car.  It is a very hazardous substance indeed, as anyone will know who has tried to get a fire going by throwing a little petrol on it.  But the safety features and regulations associated with filling stations and petrol tanks are so effective that while the hazard is great, the risk of accident is very low.  Fortunately accidents involving petrol in cars are rare.

Or take coffee (and I apologise for spoiling your day).  Coffee involves a hazard – it is a well-known carcinogen.  But the amount of the carcinogenic component in your morning cup of coffee is so small that the risk associated with drinking coffee is minimal, and deemed to be acceptable.

I always remember the wise words of Caroline Jackson, a former Chairman of the European parliament’s Environment Committee, as she railed against the EU’s “Precautionary Principle” (which says we should avoid anything that is or might be dangerous).  She argued that if we were serious about the principle, we should outlaw two-storey houses in Europe, since (she said) a thousand people a year die from falling down stairs.  So yes, stairs are hazardous.  You can break your neck.  But the probability of falling is so low that we deem the risk to be acceptable, and continue to build two-storey houses.

So how does this affect agriculture?  I recently attended a lunch-time briefing from the Plant Protection Product industry (PPPs, or pesticides).  Currently these are regulated on a risk basis.  We recognise that some of these products are potentially hazardous – you wouldn’t want to drink a pint of pesticide – but used correctly in the right concentration, the risk is minimal.  But the Commission now proposes to switch to a hazard-based régime.  And the effect will be to ban many products that have been widely and safely used for years.

Now I am very aware that many upright citizens have a bit of a downer on “chemicals” (though everything we are and everything we eat is made up of chemicals).  Wouldn’t it be better (you may ask) to ban the chemicals anyway, to ensure clean and pristine food products?

The answer, I’m afraid, is No.  Let’s think through the consequences.  First of all, discontinuing the use of PPPs would have a dramatic impact on crop yields – as much as 80% in some cases.  This would hugely increase food prices, and reduce availability.  It would force us to import far more food – undermining our food security.

Many crops would simply become non-viable, and we should have no alternative but to import.  Besides, the countries we import from would not have applied the same bans, so imports would become much more competitive, in an extra blow for our domestic industry.  Areas of previously productive land could be abandoned.

Quality, too, would be hugely affected.  I remember as a child it was quite common to bite into an apple and find that a maggot had got there first.  It’s decades since I last saw a maggot in an apple – but ban PPPs, and they’ll be back.

And the bitterest irony of all – the primary objective (of protecting consumers from vanishingly small risks) would not be achieved, since the imported products that filled the gap would be produced using the very same PPPs that we’d decided to ban.  Perhaps worse – some source countries may have lower standards and be using PPPs that we in Europe no longer use.  We would damage our farmers, put up food prices, undermine food security, lay waste the countryside, destroy agricultural jobs – and all for nothing.  As with so many EU policies, we drive business, jobs and investment offshore, with no compensating benefit.

With my Energy Spokesman’s hat on, I couldn’t resist pointing out also that fertiliser and PPP production is energy-intensive.  The EU’s perverse energy policies are already undermining industry competitiveness, while President Trump’s climate and energy plans will make the USA even more cost-effective and competitive.  The EU’s hazard plans are a disaster waiting to happen.  And again and again we’ve seen that the Commission loves gesture politics and virtue-signalling, and cares not a jot for the economic damage its policies do.

I fear that these perverse plans will proceed.  The only consolation is that with Brexit, a newly independent UK will be free to adopt a more rational policy based on risk not hazard (and a rational energy policy to deliver secure and affordable energy).  Let’s just hope we have a House of Commons prepared to seize the opportunities of Brexit – and not to keep dancing to the Brussels beat long after we’re back in control.










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11 Responses to Risk or Hazard?

  1. tapestory says:

    Risk is the decison to engage in activity which has the possibility of both good and bad outcomes. It requires courage and calculation. A good risk is when the positive benefit is almost certain to be achieved with little negative outcome. A bad risk is where negative outcomes are almost certain with the benefit not worth it. Risk is not just the probability of the bad outcome occurring.

  2. John Burnett says:

    Well said and succinctly put. It exemplifies what the Remoaners want to keep I have missed your essays on the foolish behaviour of the Commission and hope this may be a return to your trenchant observations

  3. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Forgot about this:
    “Chemicals exposed on an apple with only hot water”

  4. angela barnardo says:

    Beautifully put Roger and I look forward to reading more of your posts. Glad you’re back!

  5. Jane Davies says:

    Taking the risks out of every day life means we will end up in the future with a generation of pansies who can no longer use their own brains to calculate the every day bumps in the road we travel along in life. We are already reaping the benefit of the ‘no-one fails’ policy in schools, where every little darling is a winner to avoid the humiliation of failure, the prime example we are seeing is the whiners who lost the Brexit vote and the equally whining millennials who want the presidential election overturned and Trump booted out to be replaced by Hilary. We all have to take risks in life and make our decisions accordingly, as kids my generation played on bomb sites amongst the rubble, although I was not allowed to, those kids came to no harm and grew up into adults who no doubt had streetwise smarts. Todays over protected little darlings who will grow into adults will find life in the real world less accommodating.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      I found bits of a German bomb on the border of Kent and London at age 8. Think it had been dumped…greenbelt region. At 19 I witnessed them being blown up by RAF bomb disposal in Germany on our bombing range..couple of our 1000 pounders. That rattled the windows a bit. Another excuse for a p*ss up or two.

  6. vanorman2016 says:

    Why can’t we just get out of this Illegal EU, that by a signature, in secret, we were duped into? Can’t we immediately, refuse to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty? Use instead VIENNA convention on the Law of Treaties to take us (Britain) out of the EU. Stop paying EU ransom money immediately. Negotiate our terms when we are OUT! No use sprouting Democracy if we either do not have it or are afraid to abide by it.

  7. catweazle666 says:

    This is based on a thoroughly intentional misinterpretation of the ‘linear no-threshold model’.


    According to the EU’s interpretation (and the US EPA are equally guilty) if a substance is hazardous at any level, it is hazardous at every level – even at effectively marginally detectable levels – a Health and Safety bureaucracy’s dream situation.

    Radiation levels, pesticide toxicity, particulate pollution thresholds and numerous other everyday influences are hence brought under the control of ever-expanding unaccountable monolithic government agencies for no valid scientific reason whatsoever, as most/all of these regulatory agencies employ zero qualified scientists – apart from the oxymoronic variety epitomised by climate “scientists”, of course.

  8. tom0mason says:

    The EU has deemed Borax a hazardous chemical.
    It is so dangerous it is not to be bought or sold without special licence, and importation is controlled.
    Yes Borax! Borax is so dangerous it is STILL in eye-wash. (see http://www.boots.com/wcsstore/cmsassets/Boots/Content/Products/Drops%20washes%20mask%20-%20CAT:%20A00000322/10016144.P/optrex.pdf)

    What makes it dangerous is that in hard water areas a dash of Borax would mean less detergent needed. If you suffer with arthritis some people in the USA have found that Borax as a bath salt work wonders. Medical specialist differ over whether it really works or not but in the USA it is not deemed a health risk to try it out! A few other uses of the hazardous chemical http://chemistry.about.com/od/moleculescompounds/f/What-Is-Borax.htm

    The UK’s soils are low in boron (the element in Borax) and it is an essential requirement for health bone, especially for the young and the active.
    So why is it banned? So that the EU can control Turkey? Because Borax was one of there exports. BUT NOW IT’S HAZARDOUS!

    • catweazle666 says:

      The EU uses the discredited linear no-threshold model, an elf’n’safety legislator’s dream concept.

      That means that if eating five pounds of a substance might harm someone, then even a single molecule might harm someone, somewhere too. Hence it must be heavily regulated, creating practically infinite opportunities for employment of utterly parasitic jobsworths.

      So, it’s a license to ban/regulate everything in sight, starting at A and working through to Z, animal, vegetable and mineral.

      • tom0mason says:

        Thankfully I’ve got contacts and have a healthy supply of ’20 Mule Team Borax’ sat on the shelf.
        Also I note its in many toothpaste formulations.
        Toxic? Harmful to ants, termites and dry rot but not mammals.
        Probably very toxic to EU bureaucratic functionaries and their masters.

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