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12 May 2021

Greener isn't always better: non-chemical alternatives for rodent control

PEST CONTROL | PPC103 MAY 2021

BPCA Chief Executive Ian Andrew investigates NoCheRo, an initiative of the German Environment Agency that effectively wants to ban chemical control methods for rodents.

greener-isnt-better-nochero-main

SPEED VIEW: 

  • NoCheRo believe that non-chemical rodent control solutions are a sufficient replacement for rodenticides
  • We need to keep considering workable alternatives as rodent populations develop behavioural and genetic resistance to anticoagulants
  • A NoCheRo working party was established to develop technical guidance on trap testing and evaluation
  • NoCheRo’s findings may have implications outside of the EU as any project from any corner of the globe can be picked up and quoted as ‘evidence’ to support a cause.

We all believe in minimising the use of biocides for a more sustainable, greener pest management sector.

However, rodenticides have been a crucial part of the pest professional’s toolkit for decades – could the sector go without them completely?

The Non-Chemical Alternatives for Rodent Control (NoCheRo) group believe that non-chemical rodent control solutions are a sufficient replacement for rodenticides.

Stakeholders with a similar stance have been gathering in Europe since 2018 to build the case for traps as ‘adequate non-chemical alternatives in rodent control’.

Stated aims of NoCheRo

A rough schedule for the planned follow-up activities was published after the first NoCheRo workshop.

Report on the NoCheRo Workshop (Brussels, 20-21 November 2018)

Short-term aims

  • Follow-up workshop (now complete)
  • The working party will develop a draft of a technical guidance document for trap testing until the follow-up workshop (due imminently).

Mid-term aims

  • Adopted technical guidance document until re-authorization of AR in 2024
  • Consideration of traps as a non-chemical alternative within the next comparative assessment
  • Implementation of an international/EU-wide (voluntary) certification scheme for traps.

Long-term aim

  • Development and implementation of an international/EU-wide authorisation scheme for traps as non-chemical alternatives (cf. Sweden).

A professional attitude towards rodenticides

As a sector, we know we still rely on anticoagulant rodenticides to control rats and mice. We’re also aware that the products we use need to be handled professionally and, in the UK, under the stewardship regime of CRRU.

We’re aware that anticoagulant rodenticides are toxic and pose a risk to non-target species when used irresponsibly. We also know that rodenticides potentially cause suffering to target species.

However, when we balance those risks against the potential harm to humans’ physical and mental health, we’re satisfied that the risk to humans is the greater risk.

Rodenticides are an efficient and effective solution over time that protect humans from suffering. And therefore, we argue vehemently for these substances to remain available to professionals.

That said, we cannot be complacent, and we need to keep considering workable alternatives as rodent populations develop behavioural and genetic resistance to anticoagulants over time. If you spent time exploring the PestExtra virtual exhibitor hall, you’d have seen plenty of innovation in rodent control and maybe even a trend of turning away from SGARs.

A regulators attitude towards rodenticides

The availability of these products have been tightly regulated in Europe and will continue to be tightly controlled by HSE here in the UK post-Brexit.

The argument for these products being licensed for use lies predominantly because there is no viable alternative.

That’s where the NoCheRo initiative comes in. The aim is to prove that traps are a viable alternative to rodenticides.

And this isn’t just a thought experiment. A testing regime is being produced to prove the efficacy, practicability and humaneness of traps as a credible alternative to anticoagulants.

Rodenticides are an efficient and effective solution over time that protect humans from suffering. And therefore, we argue vehemently for these substances to remain available to professionals.

Ian Andrew, BPCA Chief Exec

In 2018, Brussels hosted the first NoCheRo workshop led by the German Environment Agency (UBA).

During the two day workshop, the relevance of non-chemical alternatives in rodent control was looked at from three different perspectives: pest control industry, authority and academics.

The scientific background on animal welfare and existing trap type approval/certification systems in Sweden and New Zealand were presented.

In a summary of the workshop, NoCheRo said, “It became apparent that an assessment of traps regarding the efficacy and animal welfare impact is lacking for most European countries”.

As a result of the workshop, a working party with experts from authorities in pest control and scientific organisations was established to develop technical guidance on trap testing and evaluation.

The stakeholders came together again in February 2020, just before the UK entered lockdown. It was organised by the European Commission (EC) department for Health and Food Safety (DG Santé) and was chaired by the German Environment Agency.

The first draft guidance for a break-back/snap trap was presented to representatives from the EU Member States authorities on biocides, the European Commission, the scientific community, NGOs and industry for discussion.

The Germany Environment Agency website summarises: “Overall, the guidance was generally accepted by the participants of the workshop. However, some aspects were identified for improvement.

“The critique points concerned the shelf-life or use-life of traps, effects on non-target organisms, the influence of lure type in the assessment of efficacy, user categories (general public, professionals) and improvement of the good practice code for trap use. It was agreed that the expert working party should rework the guidance in these topics.”

Implications and findings

NoCheRo will shortly publish what it believes to be a testing regime for traps that’ll demonstrate that they are a credible alternative to chemical control methods. I’m sure we will return to that subject once the report is in the public domain.

The report is likely to recommend a voluntary testing regime for traps, something that BPCA has already been discussing at committee level.

We now live in a post-Brexit world, and so those in the UK may be thinking, “so what?”

Any research or project from any corner of the globe can be picked up and quoted as ‘evidence’ to support a cause. We’ve already seen this in government reports on glue boards, and the government will welcome a report (regardless of its source) that gives ‘evidence’ of traps as an alternative to chemicals.

Where will that leave us here in the UK?

We remain sceptical that traps alone will ensure the maintenance of human health and wellbeing, that rodents being in the wrong place at the wrong time causes.

Ian Andrew, BPCA Chief Exec

As pest professionals, we know that traps can replace chemicals some of the time. However, we’re clear that there are many other criteria to consider, such as the extent of the infestation, the location, the propensity of trap shyness – the list goes on for so long that it certainly wouldn’t fit in a single report.

We also need to ensure that all traps are considered, not just break-back traps. For example, in countries where rodenticides have been more tightly controlled, there are legal differences. Many countries have adopted the drowning traps, which are illegal in the UK, despite their apparent effectiveness.

The argument that traps are a credible alternative to chemical control methods is a complex one. Some of these arguments will likely be tested in the forthcoming government oversight committee review of CRRU.

In the meantime, we can only keep a watching brief on NoCheRo and ensure we gather robust evidence that shows traps work well some of the time and are a fundamental element in an Integrated Pest Management approach.

We remain sceptical that traps alone will ensure the maintenance of human health and wellbeing, that rodents being in the wrong place at the wrong time causes.

Conclusions from the first NoCheRo workshop

“Throughout the workshop it became apparent that members of the industry need a common voice to approach the following tasks:

  • Promotion of the advantages of trap systems as opposed to the use and possible overuse of rodenticides
  • Definition of criteria for trap efficacy and the level of humaneness
  • Definition of criteria for trap testing: physical properties
  • Implementation of an assessment scheme for traps
  • Implementation of an (international/EU) authorisation or certification scheme
  • Pave the way to consider traps within the comparative assessment of rodenticides by conducting and publishing scientifically sound lab and/or field tests in peer-reviewed journals.

Overall, the participants of this first workshop on non-chemical alternatives for rodent control agreed that these alternatives deserve more attention and should be fostered as new technologies which will help not only modernise the pest control industry, but can also present a new means of tox-free and green pest control.”

Report on the NoCheRo Workshop (Brussels, 20-21 November 2018)

Are you ready to give up rodenticides?

The future of chemical controls is complicated, and every company will use their toolkits differently. Let us know your thoughts on chemical-free pest management, and we might print them here.

hello@bpca.org.uk

Source: PPC103

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