The woman who took on the Government over pesticides wins prestigious award at the 2006 British Environment and Media Awards (BEMAs)
The woman who has fought a determined and relentless 5-year campaign against the Government over pesticide spraying received one of the highest accolades last night by winning a prestigious award at the 2006 British Environment and Media Awards, sponsored by WWF-UK, in recognition of her campaigning efforts. 
Georgina Downs of UK Pesticides Campaign, (www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk), the leading campaign highlighting the effects of pesticides on people in rural areas (commonly known as “residents” and “bystanders”), decided to take on the Government in early 2001 after she discovered that there was no legal protection for people in the countryside from exposure to pesticides.
Ms. Downs, who has lived next to pesticide sprayed fields for over 22 years, was the first to identify serious fundamental flaws in the Government’s “bystander risk assessment,” and immediately started campaigning for an overhaul of the regulations and legislation governing agricultural spraying. This included the call for an immediate ban on crop-spraying and the use of pesticides near to people's homes, schools, workplaces and any other places of human habitation and for direct public access to the information on the chemicals sprayed on crops.  
Ms. Downs’ campaign led to two Government Consultation’s on crop-spraying, followed by a year long investigation by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP).
The RCEP report published in September 2005 entitled “Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders,” concluded that crop-spraying is a potential health risk and that chronic illnesses and diseases reported by people in rural areas, including cancer, leukaemia, Parkinson’s and ME could be associated with pesticide exposure.
The RCEP’s findings were highly critical of both the Government’s key scientific advisors on pesticides: the regulators, the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) and the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP). The RCEP concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support the previous assurances given to Ministers by PSD and ACP that the current system provides adequate protection. The RCEP questioned the independence of the PSD, which receives 60% of its funding from the agro-chemical industry and suggested that the PSD’s current structure seemed to be making health and environmental considerations subordinate to pest control. The Government are due to respond to the RCEP report this summer.
Ms. Downs states, “I feel very honoured to have won this award and I am very grateful to all those who have supported the campaign. The last 5 years have been a real battle, but I shall continue to fight on until the Government stop exposing people to these poisonous chemicals and start making the protection of public health and the environment the number one priority, instead of simply protecting industry interests. The Government has continued to deny the evidence by maintaining that pesticides do not pose a risk to public health, which is grossly misleading and the Government must be held accountable for its actions.”

Notes to Editors:-

·       Georgina Downs campaigns to highlight the adverse health and environmental effects of pesticides. She has lived next to regularly sprayed fields for 22 years and has long-standing health problems. Ms. Downs produced 2 videos "Pesticide Exposures for People in Agricultural Areas – Part 1 Pesticides in the Air; Part 2 The Hidden Costs" to illustrate chemical exposure and the effects on people in rural areas. The second video featured people from all over the country reporting cases of cancers, leukaemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, neurological problems, including Parkinson’s disease and ME, amongst many other illnesses, in rural communities surrounded by sprayed fields
·       Ms. Downs was recently listed in the Farmers Weekly Top 20 Power Players in UK Farming, following the impact of her campaign. Others included in the list were Gordon Brown, Margaret Beckett, Peter Mandelson, Prince Charles, Jacques Chirac and Jamie Oliver. For the full list see:- http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2006/01/19/92020/Power+Players.html 
·    Ms. Downs is also a nominee for Campaigner of the Year in the Observer Ethical Awards 2006. Other nominees include Jamie Oliver and Bob Geldof. For further information see:- http://observer.guardian.co.uk/competitions/page/0,,-724,00.html 
Contact: Georgina Downs
UK Pesticides Campaign
Telephone: 01243 773846
Mobile: 07906 898 915
Website – www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk

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