Crackdown on illegal chemicals and improved control of use laws vital to protect health, safety and the environment

    22 July 2013

    Monday 22 July 2013 (Canberra) – The peak industry body for the plant science industry is calling upon all parties to commit in earnest to improving the national framework for the regulation of agricultural chemicals in the lead up to the federal election. This is an area in which the federal government has failed to date, and an issue that all parties should be looking to address.

    “Australia is fortunate to have an effective, robust, rigorous and scientific chemical registration system which requires all chemical products to demonstrate their health and environmental safety before they can be registered for use in Australia. This should give Australians confidence in the regulatory scheme that governs agricultural chemical use.

    Unfortunately inconsistency in state laws that control the use of agricultural chemical products, and increased imports of illegal chemicals are undermining this public confidence and must be addressed.” Matthew Cossey, CEO of CropLife Australia said today.

    “There is little use in having a regulatory system that assesses and tests legitimate, registered products, while allowing cheap, untested, illegal product to cross our borders and put our farmers, environment and food supply at risk. Similarly, there is little use in having strict instructions for the safe use of approved chemical products if those rules are not enforced consistently and effectively.

    “There have been efforts by all levels of Australian government and stakeholders over the past five years to harmonise Australia’s laws controlling use of agricultural chemical products. Since 2008, all levels of Australian government, with input from stakeholders, have been working to reform the myriad differences in licensing, training, access, use and record keeping among the states’ and territories’ control of use regimes. Despite this prolonged effort, no effective reform has been achieved.

    “Consistent laws will help to improve public confidence in the system, so that members of the public know who is responsible for ensuring that chemicals are legal and being used responsibly and sustainably. This is especially important for herbicides used to control environmental weeds in ecologically sensitive parks and reserves. Herbicides are an essential tool used by land managers to protect native habitats from invasive species. Without these tools, weeds can destroy large areas of natural habitat and pose a threat to the survival of native plants and animals.

    “All pesticides must only be used in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they present a very low risk to natural eco-systems. All products that have been permitted by the APVMA for use on environmental weeds have met this standard. These permitted products must be used carefully, responsibly and in full compliance with the use restrictions included in the APVMA permit.

    “State governments have a responsibility to ensure that the use of permitted products is consistent with the use restrictions imposed by the APVMA. If these use restrictions are not being followed, appropriate action must be taken by state authorities. If new evidence comes to light that the permitted use of these products presents an unacceptable risk to users or the environment, then this would justify reconsideration by the APVMA. Harmonised control of use laws will improve accountability and enforcement.

    “Aside from issues with the use of legal chemicals, there is now significant, growing evidence that Australia is the target of considerable illegal imports of unregistered crop protection products. This is as a result of a ‘perfect storm’ scenario; a strong Australian dollar, significant increase in illegal production of pesticide and established transport links and markets for agchem products in Australia.

    “Illegal crop protection products have the potential to endanger human health, agriculture, the environment and the economy. The overseas experience of illegal pesticides shows they often contain dangerous contaminants which can be a safety risk. They are usually poor-quality and may not even contain effective levels of active constituents – often rendering them ineffective.

    “CropLife member companies follow a strict code of conduct which requires commitment to high standards of safety, stewardship and product quality. CropLife members must also comply with the United Nations International Code of Conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides and participate in industry stewardship activities including drumMUSTER and ChemClear® to ensure that the health and environmental risk from unwanted products and empty containers are responsibly managed. It is time the laws were improved to ensure that all agricultural chemicals sold in Australia are legitimate, high quality, and used safely, for the sake of farmers, consumers, the environment and the longevity of this important industry,” concluded Mr Cossey.

    Contact: Jessica Lee (Manager – Public Affairs) Ph: 02 6230 6399 Mob: 0410 491 261