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Asulam has been removed from a list of chemicals approved for use within the European Union because of safety fears about its occasional use on spinach. However this herbicide, most commonly sold as ‘Asulox’, is mainly used to fight the spread of bracken (ie. Pteridium aquilinum)in moorland areas of Europe and hunters should be concerned about the potential implications of this ban.
Asulam is the only chemical available to control bracken and its loss will be a blow to efforts to manage moorlands. There are even fears that a potential explosion in unmanaged bracken will result in an increase in people contracting Lyme’s disease. This is because bracken is a favoured habitat of several species of ticks which can transmit the infectious disease to people – hunters being particularly at risk.
It was hoped that common sense would win the day earlier this year when six member states, the UK, Ireland, France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said no to the proposed ban. But that wasn’t enough and the decision was referred to an EU appeals committee. Subsequent lobbying of the representatives on that committee fell on deaf ears and the appeals committee upheld the decision to ban Asulam.
As a result, all EU members states must withdraw the registration of any products containing Asulam by the end of this year, and stocks of the herbicide must be used by the end of 2012. Thereafter countries will have to demonstrate that they need an emergency derogation to continue to allow its use. United Phosphorus Ltd (UPL) in Europe, who produce the herbicide under the product name ‘Asulox’, are hoping they can get Asulam readmitted to the approved list. However, due the amount of bureaucracy involved, that won’t happen until 2016 at the earliest.
If you use herbicides to manage bracken make sure you contact your supplier straight away.