Heat on Govt to Change Pesticide Laws

In 2011 an article “Heat on govt to change pesticide laws” was published in a farming journal. There was strong reaction from those using and selling chemicals

An alliance of consumer groups, medical officials and environmentalists is calling for an overhaul of Australia’s legal pesticides list. A petition was signed by a number of groups, including consumer protection group Choice, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and the National Toxics Network, urging the government to urgently change pesticide laws. The Declaration for Safer Australian Pesticide Laws expresses serious concerns about the way pesticides are regulated in Australia and about the implications for human health and the environment. And the push has attracted high profile support, with signatories including environmental crusaders Tim Flannery and television presenter Peter Cundall.

The petition centres on the fact there are more than 80 registered pesticides still registered for use in Australia are no longer authorised in Europe because of risks to human health or the environment. Of these registered, 17 are suspected carcinogens of which several are crucial farm chemicals including widely-used herbicides such as paraquat and diuron.”To say a chemical is unsafe in Europe but safe in Australia is like saying smoking causes cancer in Europeans but not Australians,” WWF Australia spokesperson Juliette King said.

There has been strong opposition to the petition from the farming and biotechnology sectors. The National Farmers Federation accused the petitioners of running a “scare campaign” and said there was a distorted interpretation of the facts. “A campaign being run by various health and consumer groups is inaccurately claiming that Australia is using unsafe pesticides in food production,” NFF vice-president Duncan Fraser said.

“This is completely false. Agricultural chemicals available for sale in Australia are subject to a world-class scientific risk assessment by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority that regulates how and where these chemicals can be used.” Mr. Fraser said it was not comparing like with like when looking at what was banned in Europe, as there were different farming systems in place. “For instance, making simple statements that chemicals are banned elsewhere doesn’t take into account the fact that the chemicals used in Australia may not be appropriate for overseas farmers,” he said. “That can be due to differences in pests, weeds and diseases, differences in production systems, and differences in environmental conditions and is why a country specific, science-based system is required.”

Biotechnology advocate CropLife was also disappointed with the petition, labeling it “misleading and deceptive”. It said that without careful use of chemicals, more than half of Australia’s food production could be wiped out. CropLife chief executive Matthew Cossey said all chemicals in Australia had been tested according to Australian conditions. “Differences in product availability are often also due to the commercial decisions made by manufacturers and registrants. It is not a reflection on the health or environmental risks associated with a product.”


Ref: Stock & Land, 23 June, 2011 by Gregor Heard