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Georgina Downs, FRSA is the founder of the UK Pesticides Campaign. After years of ill-health and following exposure to pesticide use on agricultural land near to where she lived, she started the campaign to change the UK Government's regulations governing use of agricultural pesticides in areas where many people have been and continue to be impacted adversely.
UK Pesticides Campaign
Researching the subject of pesticides and their effects on human health, Downs decided to challenge government regulations. The UK Pesticides Campaign was started in 2001. It centres on the issue of pesticide exposure for people in agricultural areas. Her campaign resulted in the UK Government initially asking their own advisors - the ACP (Advisory Committee on Pesticides) - to conduct a study in 2002 into current practice using evidence supplied by Downs. The ACP subsequently dismissed the evidence as inadequate. Late in 2004, as a direct result of Downs' campaign, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution was requested by DEFRA Ministers to conduct a study into the evidence regarding the risks to people from crop-spraying. The RCEP's report agreed with Downs' claim that current regulations are inadequate; however, the report proposed that a mere five-metre buffer zone be imposed around any agricultural land that is subject to spraying.
She later won a landmark High Court Judicial Review action in 2008 against the Government for failing to protect people in the countryside from pesticides and also knowingly allowing residents to continue to suffer from adverse health effects without taking any action to prevent the exposure, risks and adverse impacts occurring. The judgement concluded that Downs had produced “solid evidence that residents have suffered harm to their health”, particularly in relation to acute effects, and that “a different approach” should have been adopted and accordingly there has “been both a failure to have regard to material considerations and a failure to apply the [European] Directive properly.” This was the first known legal case of its kind to reach the High Court to directly challenge the Government's pesticide policy and approach regarding crop spraying in rural areas. The ruling is obviously a very significant and landmark ruling for the potentially millions of residents throughout the country who, like Downs, live in the locality of pesticide sprayed fields. The press release Georgina Downs issued regarding her High Court victory and the full statement she made outside the High Court on 14 November 2008 can be seen on her UK Pesticides Campaign website at:- www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk.
However, DEFRA appealed the ruling and it was overturned in the Court of Appeal in July 2009, but only as a result of bizarrely substituting Downs' evidence with the conclusions of a Government requested and funded report four years earlier in 2005. This meant that the Court of Appeal Judgment was not even based on the same case, arguments and evidence that had led to her landmark victory in the High Court. In reviewing a High Court judgment the Court of Appeal would have needed to have based its judgment on the same case, arguments and evidence that had led to that High Court judgment, but did not. Downs took her case[when?] to the European Court of Human Rights, where it is pending.
- 2006: Downs was judged joint winner of the Andrew Lees Memorial Award at the British Environment and Media Awards in recognition of her campaigning efforts.
- 2006: "Heroine Award". Downs was honored at Cosmopolitan magazine's inaugural Fun Fearless Female Awards with Olay for "her tenacious and fearless campaign on the health risks of pesticides".
- May 2008: Downs won the first Inspirational Eco Woman of the Year Award in the 2008 Daily Mail Inspirational Women of the Year Awards.
- September 2008: Downs was voted the most inspiring pioneer in The Observer's Secret Pioneer poll with more than 61% of the vote.
- October 2008: Downs was named a 2008 Woman of the Year and invited to the prestigious Women of the Year Lunch at the Guildhall in London on 13 October 2008 in recognition of her campaign. The Lunch was founded in 1955 by Antonella Kerr, Marchioness of Lothian (OBE), Odette Hallowes, and Lady Georgina Coleridge (all now deceased) to bring together outstanding women from all walks of life, creating one of the most significant assemblies of women in the world in recognition of their individual achievements.
- October 2008: Nominated in the first ever “Inspiration Awards for Women”.
- December 2008: Listed as #2 on The Guardian's "25 People of the Year 2008".
- December 2008: Nominated for the Political Impact Award in the 2008 Channel 4 Political Awards.
- 2009: Runner up in the Grassroots Campaigner category in the Observer Ethical Awards.
- 2009: Included in the Inspirational Women: Role Models for our time feature in the March 2009 edition of Vogue magazine.
- 2011: Farmers Weekly listed Downs at number 9 in its 2011 list of influential campaigners involved with British agriculture.
- 2014: Runner up in the Local Hero category in the Observer Ethical Awards.
Downs was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in September 2008.
Georgina Downs is also a registered journalist under both the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists (GAJ) and also the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) and has written a number of articles on behalf of the campaign for various publications.