Facts not fear will deliver best outcomes for health and environment

    20 March 2013

    Regulation should be based on science, targeted to manage real risks and encourage innovation.

    Wednesday 20 March 2013 (Canberra) – It is absolutely crucial that public policy is founded upon science and credible evidence – not on the latest unfounded scare campaign from a professional global activist organisation.

    A document released today by the WWF and National Toxics Network is yet another example of professional activists employing the tactic of ‘pseudo-science by media release’ to attempt to dupe the media and frighten the public.

    Matthew Cossey, CEO of CropLife Australia, said today, “The document is alarmingly heavy on assertion and completely light on evidence. It is an extended press-release dressed up as a report, relying upon emotive language and citing the occasional dated study, often out of context. The author of the document is a long-time anti-chemical campaigner from a fringe organisation in New Zealand; it is clear that balance and critical thinking were not the motivating forces behind the document.

    “This is an irresponsible attempt to instil fear in the public through misinformation. If there is credible evidence of human health issues of the kind the document raises, then they should be investigated by the independent regulator as quickly and effectively as possible. Drumming up fear without credible evidence is extremely unconscionable as it diverts resources away from real risk.

    “These organisations are manufacturing fear out of half-truths in order to place political pressure on Parliament to rush through a Bill that is still deeply flawed and will only serve to tie up the regulator with arbitrary assessments.

    “The industry is the greatest advocate for new, softer, effective agricultural chemistry coming to market, a position demonstrated by CropLife member companies investing billions of dollars in R&D every year to that end. We also want to see the regulator targeting its resources where there is the highest risk, so that real risks are managed quickly and effectively.

    “What we don’t want is the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) dedicating resources to arbitrarily assessing a product, with no evidence that it poses a risk, simply because it fits into the current lobbying plan of global activist organisations. It makes much more sense to use those resources so that where the use of a chemical has changed, and new evidence comes to light, the APVMA can re-assess and act as quickly as possible to ensure the highest standards of protection for human health and the environment. Arbitrary re-registration creates a great deal of administration for an already extremely inefficient regulator, for no public safety or environmental benefit.

    “A regulatory system like the Bill is proposing means that we won’t be seeing new chemistry coming to market. Innovation has improved the environmental footprint of agricultural chemicals a great deal over the last 30 years. We want a system that encourages that kind of innovation, rather than adding unnecessary cost.

    “There is no evidence to suggest that anything in this Bill will result in benefits for the environment or human health – it will simply make the system more inefficient, and that means less new chemistry coming to market, and diversion of resources away from real risk”, Mr Cossey concluded.