Chernobyl and its effect on Scottish Agriculture
ALL MONITORING RESTRICTIONS WERE LIFTED IN SCOTLAND ON 21 JUNE 2010
The Chernobyl accident occurred near Kiev in the Ukraine on 26 April 1986 and resulted in radioactive material being released into the atmosphere. This was blown by the wind over a large area of Europe and brought down to ground by rain. The areas affected most by residual radiocaesium were those where it rained hardest immediately after the accident.
Monitoring for radioactivity, co-ordinated by central Government, was carried out by the nuclear industry, the National Radiological Protection Board and others. In Scotland in 1986 the most affected areas were some hill land in Central, Dumfries and Galloway, Ross and Cromarty, Arran, parts of Strathclyde and North and South Uist.
Agricultural produce, other foodstuffs and water supplies were monitored so that action could be taken, as necessary, to exclude contaminated material from going into the human food chain. Imported food produce from Eastern Europe countries near to the Ukraine was also subject to tight controls.
In Scotland it was found that in some of the areas where it had rained heavily readings in sheep were in excess of the 1,000 Becquerels of radiocaesium per kilogramme (Bq/kg), which was designated as the control level for sheepmeat. As a result of these high readings statutory restrictions under the terms of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 were placed on the movement and slaughter of sheep from those areas affected. Restrictions on cattle were not necessary as monitoring indicated that levels of radioactivity in beef were much lower. This was because cattle tend to graze lower pastures, as opposed to sheep which range further up hills where residual radiocaesium is retained in poorer, peaty type soils where mineral content is low.
In Scotland restrictions on the movement and slaughter of sheep were first put into force on 24 June 1986 and subsequently lifted later that year. During the year, 2,900 farms, stocking 1.5 million sheep, were affected by restrictions. During 1987 it became necessary to reintroduce restrictions as high levels of radioactivity were detected in some of the new season's crop of lambs. These new restrictions came into effect on 8 July and 13 August 1987 and affected a total of 73 farms in parts of the former regions of Central, Dumfries and Galloway and Strathclyde (since changed following re-organisation of local government in 1996). No change was made to the areas held under restrictions until 14 January 1991 when monitoring of sheep indicated it was safe to lift restrictions from 10 complete farms and parts of 3 further farms spread across the regions involved. Ongoing annual surveys since then has allowed further derestrictions to take place and details are given in the attached Annex. It was not possible to monitor during 2001 due to restrictions on movements and farm visits as a result of foot and mouth disease. Five farms remain under restriction as of January 2008. (The total of farms subject to controls can fluctuate due to the amalgamation or splitting of units for business reasons).
Monitoring on restricted farms in Scotland is undertaken by The Scottish Government Rural Directorate (SGRD), formerly the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) on behalf of the Food Standards Agency Scotland (FSAS). During the main growing season, 40 lambs on each farm subject to restrictions are live monitored. As the vegetation grows, radiocaesium, which is "locked" into certain areas of poor soil on hill farms is taken up by the herbage and grazed by sheep. Monitoring enables the residual radiocaesium levels being absorbed by sheep to be assessed and those farms where levels have possibly reduced sufficiently to allow release from restrictions to be identified. More intensive surveys on such farms are carried out during the summer, followed by monitoring under "Mark and Release" (see following paragraph) during the main autumn marketing season. If after live monitoring, followed by laboratory analysis in some cases, sheep are below the control level (i.e. 1,000 Bq/kg) the farm can be released from restrictions.
In order to ensure food safety and allow marketing of sheep to continue from restricted farms, a system known as "Mark and Release" is operated. The system was developed to allow sheep from restricted areas to be moved after being tested for radioactivity using portable monitors. Any sheep registering above the 1,000 Bq/kg control level are painted with an indelible paint and moved under licence from The SGRD usually to a low ground farm for further feeding. These marked sheep can subsequently be re-monitored and this shows that radioactivity levels drop quickly once sheep are moved away from the restricted areas. The set colouring arrangements of "Mark and Release" allow sheep to be automatically released from slaughter controls 3 months after the use of a particular paint colour ceases. The SGRD runs schemes to compensate farmers affected by statutory restrictions for their time and trouble in making sheep available for monitoring and for any reduction in price which painted sheep incur at markets. Over £3million has been paid in compensation to Scottish farmers to date. In the financial year (2006/07) payments to producers totalled around £41,307.
The SGRD continues to monitor sheep on the restricted farms, and, where appropriate, arranges laboratory analysis of samples of sheepmeat. Sheep on the farms remaining under restriction will continue to be monitored with a view to releasing them when radiocaesium readings are at an acceptable level.
ANNEX - FARM DERESTRICTION DETAILS
|Date||Farms removed||approx number left|
|24/6/1986||original restrictions all lifted by Feb 1987)||2900#|
|8/7&13/8/1987||new restrictions put in place||73@|
|14 Jan 1991||10 Farms||63*|
|11 Dec 1991||3 Farms||60*|
|14 Jan 1993||6 Farms and 2 Grazing Areas||54*|
|19 Jan 1994||12 Farms and 1 Part Farm||43*|
|18 Jan 1995||3 Farms||41*|
|17 Jan 1996||5 Farms and 1 Part Farm||36*|
|22 Jan 1997||9 Farms and 2 Part Farms||28*|
|21 Jan 1998||5 Farms and 2 Part Farms||23*|
|20 Jan 1999||2 Farms and 1 Part Farm||20|
|8 Jan 2001||1 Farm and 1 Part Farm||18|
|No deresrictions||in 2002, as no survey in 2001 due to foot and||mouth restrictions.|
# - 2900 figure confirmed by SEERAD April 2006
@ - SEERAD number for August 1990
* - from original MAFF Chernobyl booklet
Following derestrictions effective from 29 February 2008, 5 farms (area - 7000 ha [estimated] stocking around 5000sheep) in the locations listed below remain subject to statutory controls:-
East Ayrshire Council Area
Stirling Council Area
All monitoring restrictions were lifted in Scotland on 21 June 2010.
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