‘Study warns fertilisers can threaten fertility’ page 32, Sussex Express (Friday, March 4, 2016).
The report of March 4, 2016 was based on a misleading media release from the University of Nottingham about a study that was undertaken on sheep fertility.
The release implied that sewage sludge was commonly used in agriculture, when it is not, and then claimed that there ‘might’ be implications for pregnant women from the use of sewage sludge on grazing pasture.
Any journalist worth their salt would have checked with the author of the study whether such bold claims could be substantiated and surely it is the job of a reporter to ask more questions about the nature of the study?
Last week, a member of the NFU contacted Dr Richard Lea at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at The University of Nottingham who confirmed that the study did not look at human health.
Moreover, the spreading of treated sewage sludge on land is tightly controlled by the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations, which outline when and where the treated sludge can be spread.
Farmers have legal responsibilities to ensure that land is managed according to regulations after treated sludge is applied.
These include that stock must not be grazed or certain crops must not be harvested until a safe period of time has passed.
The misleading media release does not say whether the study looked at sewage sludge applications made in accordance with these controls or not.
East Sussex NFU chairman,
Gote Farm, Ringmer, Lewes