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In September 2005, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) published a report, which among other things, recommended the introduction of a compulsory 5-metre buffer zone next to residential properties to provide added protection against possible health risks from spray drift (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 2005). In contrast, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) has advised that a buffer zone of this sort would be a disproportionate response to scientific uncertainty, although it might be justifiable simply on the grounds that many people do not like pesticides being sprayed right up to their boundaries (Advisory Committee on Pesticides, 2005). This paper summarises the methods that currently are used to assess health risks to neighbours and other bystanders, and examines why two eminent and independent committees have come to differing conclusions on the need for added precaution.