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Major landowners are being informed about the dangers of ragwort at the 2006 Ragwort Awareness Conference in London today (Thursday April 27), which features keynote speaker Professor Derek Knottenbelt.

The conference aims to educate local authorities and other major owners of land about the existing laws and the dangers that ragwort poses to grazing animals and human health. Informative presentations from the country’s leading ragwort experts will help spread the word about the safe disposal of ragwort and ways to prevent it from growing. “The burgeoning of ragwort across the UK is not only a hazard for horses and other grazing animals. It has potentially serious human implications and is an environmental disaster in the making,” Professor Knottenbelt explained.

The event is being run by the British Horse Society (BHS) following growing numbers of calls from the public about the spread of ragwort across the British countryside. The BHS was instrumental in the formation of the Ragwort Act 2003 and the codes of practice introduced alongside the legislation, which amended the existing Weeds Act; but now the BHS’s Welfare Department recognises the need to highlight the dangers of the plant to major landowners.

BHS Chairman Patrick Print said: “Education is our main weapon in fighting the scourge of ragwort. For this vital conference to have maximum impact, we would like to encourage members of the public to urge their local councillors, MPs and major landowners in their counties to attend to learn more about the plant and the dangers it poses.”

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