Focus Area: Crop Protection

  • The role of crop protection products in soil health

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    The targeted and responsible use of pesticides as part of an integrated pest management strategy plays an important role in promoting soil health.

  • International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste – An urgent need to safeguard climate and food security

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    Australia’s agricultural sector provides an estimated 75 million people, both at home and abroad, with safe, nutritious, high-quality foods. In addition to providing food, our sustainable and resilient farming sector, bolstered by ground-breaking agricultural innovations, is a major driver of economic growth for Australia. Concerningly, the impact of climate change and the increasing frequency of natural disasters on crop loss is increasingly a major threat to the future of our food security globally.

    “It is serendipitous that International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste lands on the same week as Australia’s first National Disaster Preparedness Summit,” said Matthew Cossey, Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia, the national peak industry organisation for the plant science sector.

    “Ensuring effective natural disaster responses and recovery resources are available to support the vital farming sector that bears the brunt of many of these shocks that destroy our crops is crucial.

    “Pests, weeds and diseases continue to be major threats to the production, profitability and sustainability of Australia’s farming sector, leading to food loss. This is only increasing with climate change and the rising incidence of natural disasters,” said Mr Cossey.

    “Weeds, insect pests and diseases can destroy a crop, either by eating it before it can be harvested, or by pathogen infection which renders the crop unpalatable or unsafe for eating. These pests don’t stop at the farm gate; they continue causing damage through transport and storage, all the way to consumers’ homes.

    “Australians are already highly sensitive to the true value of food as cost-of-living pressures rise, and even small fluctuations in food production and food losses cost lives globally,” said Mr Cossey.

    The plant science industry continues to invest billions of dollars in R&D to further assist farmers minimise crop losses. Herbicides, fungicides and insecticides continue to provide Australia and the world’s crops with vital protection against insects, diseases and weeds during production and harvest. In Australia alone, without farmers access and use of modern crop protection products, almost three-quarters of the value of the food produced would vanish, resulting in a range of fresh produce essentially disappearing from Australian shelves.

    Biotech crops help to prevent pre-harvest losses by protecting against threats such as plant diseases and pests like insects, which can cost farmers a devastating 60-80 per cent of their yield in some developing regions.

    Pest resistant GM crops have been shown to increase average yields by 22 per cent, and farmer profits by 68 per cent, which creates profound, life-changing opportunities for subsistence farmers to escape from poverty.

    Mr Cossey continued, “At the other end of the spectrum, nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year as 800 million people in the world go hungry. Food waste contributes to about eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and can cause as much damage to our planet as plastic waste.

    “Governments around the world including Australia are tackling the issue of food waste through the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving food waste by 2030. These efforts have a strong ally in the plant science industry. A great example is Arctic Apples. Developed using CSIRO technology by a Canadian company and now released in the US, these gene-edited apples essentially eliminate browning and are therefore less likely to be thrown away, significantly cutting food waste.

    “This is just the beginning. Governments, farmers and the entire food value chain must work together and support sustainable agricultural practices that utilise plant science innovations like pesticides and GM crops. By doing so, we can tackle food loss and waste and climate change, while ensuring a more secure future for our global food supply during these challenging times,” concluded Mr Cossey.

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  • Farming for the future: updated resistance management advice released

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    CropLife Australia’s updated Resistance Management Strategies for fungicides, herbicides and insecticides are now available online. The newly updated strategies for 2023-24 have been reviewed by CropLife’s expert committees, in consultation with relevant national and international experts and provide invaluable support to farmers, agronomists and environmental land managers in preserving the long-term viability and effectiveness of essential crop protection products.

    “Relentless weather conditions have intensified Australia’s need for effective management of insect pests, weed and diseases, which continually undermine and compromise agricultural productivity and essential environmental land management,” said Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia, the national peak industry organisation for the plant science sector, Mr Matthew Cossey.

    “A critical tool in the Aussie farmer toolkit has been access to pesticides, including fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. By remaining up to date with the latest resistance management strategies, agricultural professionals can optimise their pest management practices and protect the long-term viability of these crucial products.

    “These new strategies support the judicious, targeted and effective use of pesticides, a crucial step in Integrated Pest Management methods. A fundamental element of resistance management is the rotation or admixture of pesticides with different modes of action. This practice prevents continuous exposure of pests to a single pesticide class, reducing the likelihood of resistance development.

    “Furthermore, Integrated Pest Management methods safeguard the environment and minimise the risk of negative impacts on non-target organisms and also ensures the long-term efficacy of pest control measures, supporting sustainable agricultural practices for generations to come.

    “Resistance management strategies serve as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, product labels. While implementing these strategies, it remains imperative to adhere to the handling and application instructions specified on the registered product label or approved permit.

    Mr Cossey concluded, “It’s also a timely reminder that Australia is currently in the transition phase of aligning its herbicide mode of action (MoA) classification system with global standards i.e., moving from a letter-based system to a numerical one. The classifications capture new active constituents and ensures the Australian MoA classification system is future proofed and remains globally relevant for farmers and agronomists. The numerical classification system should be fully implemented by the end of 2024.”

    CropLife Australia’s popular Resistance Management Strategies are part of its broader StewardshipFirst® initiative – a suite of world-leading best-practice stewardship resources and programs that assist all pesticide users to remain world and leaders in sustainable agricultural practices.

    View the 2023-24 Resistance Management Strategies online at: https://www.croplife.org.au/resources/programs/resistance-management/

    Find resources supporting Herbicide MoA alignment at:
    https://www.croplife.org.au/media/industry-news/moa/

  • Farm Safety Week – Stay on the safe side when spraying

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    Pesticides play a fundamental role in modern agriculture, helping to protect crops from pests, diseases and weeds. Australia has an extraordinary good record with on farm safe chemical use with very low rates of workplace incidents involving the use of farm chemicals, however Farm Safety Week is an important reminder to put safety first when it comes to product handling. Adequate training, planning and strict adherence to product label instructions are crucial to protecting farm workers and the environment.

    “Best practice with the safe storage, transport, handling and use of pesticides is crucial. There’s never a good time or place to cut corners with safety,” said Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia, the national peak industry organisation for the plant science sector, Mr Matthew Cossey.

    “The safety of the users and handlers of pesticides are the reason why Australia has robust regulatory and compliance systems designed to protect worker safety and dictate effective on-farm practices. It’s also why CropLife and our members invest significant resources in our StewardshipFirst® suite of free best-practice and stewardship programs.

    “The plant science industry invests billions of dollars in R&D every year which includes developing modern and safe formulations and packaging as well as comprehensive instructions on safe use best-practices for all products. Farmers, agriculture workers and product applicators should follow these top tips to manage risk when handling pesticides:

    Follow the label: Australia is also fortunate to have one of the world’s most highly regarded, technically competent, independent regulators in the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). The APVMA robustly and independently assesses all scientific information for human health and environmental safety and efficacy of pesticides before approving a product. It also provides strict conditions of use on the labels that are legally binding. The labels on pesticide products contain crucial information regarding proper handling, application, protective equipment requirements, and disposal. It is vital to thoroughly read and understand these instructions before using any pesticide.

    Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The appropriate use of PPE, such as impervious aprons, gloves, goggles and chemical proof protective footwear and respirators should always be worn in line with the product instructions.

    Store and Dispose of Pesticides Properly: Safely store pesticides in secure, designated areas away from children, animals, and food products. Follow local guidelines for pesticide disposal to prevent contamination of water sources and soil. CropLife’s not-for-profit stewardship program subsidiary, Agsafe, manages important national collection, recycling and disposal initiatives including the drumMUSTER® program which has safely disposed of and recycled nearly 42,000,000 chemical drums since its inception 25years ago. ChemClear® ensures expired, unwanted, or unknown pesticides are safely and properly disposed of. It also provides professional services for ensuring world’s best practice with the safe transport, storage and handling of pesticides.

    Best Practice Professional Services: Ensure that anyone involved in pesticide transport, storage, handling and application receive proper training and information. Stay up-to-date with the latest safety practices and techniques to minimise risks. Agsafe also provides best-practice training for anyone who stores, handles, transports or provides advice on agricultural chemicals on how to effectively manage and mitigate any possible risks.

    Mr Cossey concluded, “CropLife’s StewardshipFirst® initiative includes best-practice product application guides such as SprayBest and MyAgCHEMuse. These were specifically developed to help farmers, spray contractors and environmental land managers optimise the safe and effective use of crop protection products while protecting themselves, neighbours and the environment.”

  • CropLife CEO Opening Statement to the House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Agriculture Inquiry into food security in Australia

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    Canberra, Wednesday, 21 June 2023

     

    Chair and Members of the Parliamentary Committee, Good Morning.

     

    Never before in human history have so many people relied on so few to produce their food.  This is particularly true in modern developed countries such as Australia. Less than half of one percent of Australia’s entire population produce essentially all the food, feed and fibre for the other 99.5% of the population. This is a fundamental issue when looking at food security.

     

    This phenomenon, which essentially unshackled humanity so that it could focus greater efforts and energy into higher order pyramid of needs issues, was enabled through science and innovation.

     

    The Third Agricultural Revolution, or the Green Revolution, as it is more commonly referred to, started more than half a century ago and remains the foundation of our modern farming systems and delivered a step change in farming production and productivity. The introduction of new seed varieties, modern nutritional and crop protection chemistry and science-based farming systems were the core innovations that facilitated that step change. This is what delivered the greatest improvement in food security and affordability in human history. However, at the same time we have seen over recent decades a significant increase in ignorance, especially in our urban populations, about the basics of farming and agricultural systems.

     

    It is the innovations of the plant science and other agricultural science-based industries that will also be at the core of the next revolution in agriculture, which will be required over the coming decades to achieve another leap in production and enable farming to become even more environmentally sustainable while also addressing the affordability component of food security.

     

    This fourth revolution will need to be undertaken by the farming sector and supporting industries such as ours, in even more challenging circumstances in every sense; climatically, economically, socially and scientifically.

     

    A range of circumstances over recent years, including severe drought, floods, bushfires and global pandemics have reinforced to all Australian’s the importance of agriculture and food security, something that perhaps many Australians had stated to take for granted. These events have also highlighted the dedication and skill of the nation’s farming sector, even in the most challenging of situations.

     

    The foundation of agriculture is in the coexistence of different farming systems and the challenge ahead is too great to be distracted by ideas, philosophies or policies that are not based on good data and proven science.

     

    The world needs to produce as much food over the next 50 years as we have since the beginning of humanity, more than 30,000 years ago, if we are to deliver on that most basic of human rights, of everyone having enough to eat.

     

    That is a staggering challenge, requiring a massive effort from the entire agricultural sector. Farmers will need access to all and every safe and effective tool, product, and innovation to do it, especially new breeding technique seeds and crop protection innovations – be they organic, synthetic or biologically based.

     

    Pesticides have had a hugely positive impact on global food production, yet there remains a serious lack of understanding about their safety and importance, not just to farming but also to the protection and restoration of our natural environment and human health.

     

    Crop protection chemistry remains vital to supporting and indeed enabling modern food production globally. Almost three quarters of all food produced in Australia is directly attributed to farmers having access to and using crop protection products. That means more than $20 billion of Australian crop production annually is enabled by pesticides. Without pesticides the world would lose up to a further 50 per cent of current food crops, devastating food supply. Access to other innovations, such as new seed varieties though biotechnology-based breeding techniques, is also delivering significant yield improvements and reducing input costs for farmers while also delivering huge sustainability benefits.

     

    It’s crucial that Australian farmers have access to these critical inputs now and into the future if our food security challenges are to be successfully met.

     

    This will allow our farming sector to continue delivering for Australian consumers, who are increasing their demand for a greater variety of high-quality safe foods, as well as remain a globally competitive agricultural exporter, to even more international markets.

     

    The ag industry, including key input industries such as our own plant science sector, are working on keeping food safe, nutritious and affordable. We are working to improve sustainability, reduce our carbon footprint and provide solutions for on-farm waste. We are not idle to the problems of the world, and we can and indeed are, through innovation, part of the solution, but this must also be assessed through the prism that producing food is not optional, it is essential.

     

    Furthermore, Australia is fortunate to be one of the most food secure countries in the world, however the last few years has seen, for the first time in decades, an actual deterioration in the Global Hunger Index, driven by seriously diminished food security in many countries, including some of our nearest neighbours in the Asia Pacific. As an agricultural exporting nation, the success of our farming sector is not just an imperative for Australia, it is a moral obligation as member of the global community.

     

    In addressing the challenges of food security in both Australia and globally there can be no place for flawed food fads or political activist agendas that are misleading and go against the fundamentals of evidence and science-based policy. It is also crucial that we do not see bad agricultural policies of other countries imposed on the Australian farming sector through obligatory requirements of trade deals.

     

    Australia is fortunate to have modern farming and food systems built on robust evidence-based regulation, which affords everyone confidence in our nation’s farming and food production systems. It is crucial that they are maintained and driven by science and data, not falsely premised agendas.

     

    As the national peak industry organisation for the plant science sector, CropLife Australia appreciates the opportunity to appear before the committee today to discuss this issue of vital importance.

     

  • SA grain producers urged to take the ‘Spray Pledge’

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    South Australian grain producers are being urged to take the ‘Spray Pledge’ in a new industry-led initiative launched today by Grain Producers South Australia (GPSA) in partnership with CropLife to highlight the importance of applying crop protection products responsibly. 

    South Australian grain producers can take the ‘Responsible Spray Application Pledge’, to demonstrate they are using best practice application of pesticides by visiting spraypledge.com.au.    

    Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia, the national peak industry organisation for the plant science sector, Mr Matthew Cossey, said, “Pesticides are crucial to modern integrated pest management methods. We’ve seen just how important they are to safe food production following a very wet start to the season. Fungicides, herbicides and insecticides enable farmers to preserve crop yield, protect soil health, reduce carbon emissions and improve food safety. 

    “CropLife’s members invest billions of dollars each year into the research and development of innovative products, which have improved application precision to reduce the risk of pesticide drift occurring. But ultimately the best and most important way to maintain farmer access to these crucial products is through best practice application. 

    “Partnerships like this are important reminders that agricultural sector are all on the same page when it comes to best practice farming and stopping spray drift. We can achieve this when combining industry-led best-practice initiatives with the leadership demonstrated by applicators in South Australia who are committed to being world best. 

    “I commend GPSA for their ongoing work in this area and CropLife Australia and our members are very pleased to be their partners in this important initiative,” concluded Mr Cossey. 

    To join the ‘Spray Pledge’, visit www.spraypledge.com.au  

    Visit www.stewardshipfirst.com.au for CropLife’s industry-led best practice application guides MyAgCHEMuse and SprayBEST for responsible application and spray drift management. 

  • World Food Safety Day highlights an everyday important issue

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    Today marks World Food Safety Day. One in 10 people are affected by foodborne diseases around the world. Unsafe foods contribute to poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development and micronutrient deficiencies that are entirely preventable. Only when food is safe can we fully benefit from its nutritional value and the social enjoyment of sharing a good meal which is an important part of food security.

    World Food Safety Day highlights the need for trade, agriculture, industry and food policies that ensure safe food for better health and environmental sustainability. Food systems play an important role in preventing infectious and toxic hazards, microbial pathogens and other noxious substances from getting onto our plates.

    Matthew Cossey, Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia, said “We are fortunate in Australia, like in most of the developed world, that food has never been safer and never has there been such variety of produce available to consumers due to amazing farmers, chemistry innovation from the plant science industry and effective storage and transport.

    “Australia’s agricultural sector has a global reputation for high food safety standards and responsible use of advanced crop protection technologies to manage food toxin risks to consumers. Continuous monitoring shows that the use of these highly regulated products continue to safely minimise dangerous toxins caused by fungus and insect damage.

    “Ensuring access to safe, nutritious and affordable produce is crucial to improved health outcomes in Australia. With 73 per cent of crop production attributable to the use of crop protection products, it is vital that farmers continue to have access to the best possible tools that enable availability of nutritious fruits, vegetables and grains.

    “While science-driven innovations are playing their part, we all have a role to play. Whether we grow, process, transport, store, sell, buy, prepare or serve food, food safety is in all of our hands.

    “The best thing consumers can do for their health is to continue to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and ensure proper hygiene practices that prevent bacteria and contamination.”

    Mr Cossey concluded, “Striving towards safer food for better health is something we all should be committed to. Ensuring access to plant science technology will continue to help Australian farmers produce nutritious, safe and affordable food for a growing global population.”

  • APVMA performance returns a timely reminder

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    The last 10 years have been tough on the APVMA, a sentiment echoed by its performance record. However, its return to minimum performance standards offers a crucial opportunity for the agricultural sector to go further.

    It’s been a record breaking few years for Australian farmers, buoyed by optimal growing conditions and market prices. Timely farmer access to new pesticides and technology has also played an important role in the nation’s economic outlook. Now as the APVMA returns to approvals of pesticide registration within statutory timeframes and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s time for a step change.

    Targeted and considered improvements to Australia’s agvet regulatory system, now, will ensure the delivery of timely innovations to farmers through an efficient regulator that responds to scientific principles and data independently of politically driven decisions.

    It’s essential that any APVMA reforms take lessons from the past if it is to maintain its global credentials and serve the Australian farming sector by enabling access to the right agricultural chemicals at the right time.

    See what it takes to get a new pesticide to market:

    Screening (4-5 years)
    • Developers screen thousands of chemicals to find one that safely addresses a specific pest problem. Less than one in every 140,000 makes it into a pesticide.

    Research (3-4 years)
    • Developers test products in greenhouses to simulate real-world situations and evaluate effectiveness and potential negative effects.
    • Products that make it past this phase are assessed closely to determine potential for adverse health effects in human, animals or the environment. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) mandates more than 200 individual tests to ensure its safety.

    Evaluation (1.5-3 years)
    • Once developers have completed the required research and tests on a pesticide, they submit the data to the APVMA for independent assessment according to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code.
    • The APVMA only registers a product if there is sufficient scientific data to show the product does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment and that it serves its useful purpose.

    Re-evaluation and special review
    • If at any time new information or scientific data indicate a pesticide could pose an unacceptable risk, the information is evaluated and appropriate action taken.
    • Many things can trigger a reconsideration like new manufacturer data, new public scientific data or a cancelled registration by a similar regulator.

    In all, it can take longer than a decade and more than $350 million (AUD) for a new pesticide to get to market.

     

    Read the full CropLinks edition.

  • From lab to paddock to plate

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    Australian agriculture has a national goal to reach $100 billion by 2030 through increased productivity, market access and diversification.

    It’s an ambitious goal in the face of climate change impacts, resource scarcity and invasive pests and weeds. Australian farming will need new innovations to succeed in this ambitious quest, especially from the plant science sector. Australia’s registration and regulatory systems need to be efficient, science based and independent if the plant science industry’s innovations are able to be accessed and assist Australia’s farmers.

    The organic, synthetic and biological pesticide products and new chemical innovations farmers need to drive productivity, face a longer and proportionately more costly path to market compared to Australia’s major international agricultural competitors such as Canada, the US and South American countries.

    In 2021 a review of the pesticides and veterinary medicines regulatory system in Australia (The Matthews Review) identified many procedural inefficiencies in regulation and registration costs. Unfortunately, rather than address the primary need for better access to new crop protection products by farmers, it proposed duplicated and costly layers of bureaucracy where credible and effective (albeit inefficient) systems already exist.

    The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) currently regulates and evaluates chemicals for risk, based on unique Australian crops, pests and environmental conditions using a science based, independent framework.

    If the major recommendations from the Matthews Review were implemented, an entirely unnecessary chemical re-review system based on the European Union’s (EU) would be established. The EU re-evaluation system is based on arbitrary time frames, not on science or data. If anything, this would only prevent farmers from having access to products that have been safely and responsibly used for years and bury Australia’s regulatory system in unnecessary red tape.

    Australians need world class agricultural practices and innovative crop protection products to ensure productivity, sustainability and profitability of farming now and into the future. Therefore, the answer is not a new regulatory system. The current one is not broken. What we need is well considered, targeted efficiency improvements in the regulatory system and fewer hurdles for investment in the Australian market.

    What we need is well considered, targeted efficiency improvements in the regulatory system and fewer hurdles for investment in the Australian market.

     

    Read the full CropLinks edition.