In the recent case of Downs v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2008] EWHC 2666 Mr Justice Collins was asked to consider whether the defendant was complying with EC Directive (91/414/EEC) (the Directive) which was implemented in the UK by the Plant Protection Products Regulations 2005. Ms Downs is a notable campaigner in relation to public health and environmental concerns resulting from crop spraying. Her primary concern, in these proceedings, was for residents who lived near fields subject to crop spraying. She alleged that the defendant's current regime did not offer adequate protection to this group of citizens.

Article 4.1(b)(iv) of the Directive specifically requires Member States to ensure that a product is not approved unless it is established that it has no harmful effect on human or animal health, directly or indirectly, or on ground water. The judge found that the regime for testing pesticides in the United Kingdom did not take into account the proximity to crop spraying of many residents and consequently was not in compliance with the Directive.

This decision may be appealed and in the meantime the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will need to determine how to handle the judgment's ramifications in the short term. Whether the decision acts as a trigger for injury claims by residents alleging harm resulting from crop spraying, remains to be seen.