Report card highlights correct information as the priority for Reef health

    16 September 2011

    The release of the Federal Government’s report card on the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef has been welcomed by Australia’s peak plant science body.

    CropLife Chief Executive Officer, Matthew Cossey, stated that, “The health of our Great Barrier Reef is critically important and protective action must be based on careful consideration of all the available evidence, not misconceptions. Those who seek to protect the Reef need to recognise that Reef health is impacted by many factors, including water temperature, pH, sediment and nutrient levels, as well as the potential presence of some pesticides”, Mr Cossey said.

    “It remains critically important that government, industry, regulators and the community address those issues that most threaten the health of the Reef, rather than simply addressing perceived threats and hazards. CropLife commits itself to supporting Australia’s farmers achieve best practice through the implementation of accreditation and training of chemical users”, Mr Cossey said.

    The Great Barrier Reef report card confirms that the health of the Reef may be impacted by a range of factors of which pesticides are but one. Water temperatures and increases in water acidity present significant threats to the long term survival of the Reef. Each year, natural events such as storms, cyclones and flooding result in approximately 17 million tonnes of sediment being washed into the Reef lagoon. The responsible use of pesticides to facilitate no-till agriculture actually helps reduce this threat.

    Mr Cossey commended Queensland farmers for implementing new farm practises to further reduce pesticide runoff from farms.

    “Australian farmers, particularly in rich sugarcane landscapes of North Queensland, continue to implement management plans to reduce the impact of runoff accumulated from crop protection products. Due to the use of modern farming practices, our farmers are able to apply chemicals more precisely, which reduce their impact on the environment”, Mr Cossey said.

    “Agricultural chemicals are heavily regulated to ensure their risks to the environment are minimised. All pesticide products are independently and rigorously assessed by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to ensure they present no unacceptable risk to users, consumers or the environment. Strict controls on the way that farmers can use agricultural chemicals ensure that all Australians have access to plentiful, safe and disease‑free food”.

    In addition to this, Queensland farmers continue to adhere to strict and rigorous guidelines in the Federal Government’s Reef Rescue initiative to further reduce the exceptionally low pesticide levels detected in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

    “Australian farmers are global leaders in pest management and the adoption of innovative tools. It would be disappointing to see over-regulation generate negative environmental outcomes such as a return to tillage as a weed control technique and similar archaic agricultural practises that reduce both efficiency and production”, Mr Cossey stated.

    “CropLife and the Australian plant science industry are committed to the lifecycle stewardship of products. CropLife members invest millions of dollars each year on stewardship initiatives to ensure that products remain safe and present no unacceptable risks to users, consumers or the environment. Our members have established stewardship programs to manage potential environmental impacts associated with agricultural chemical use, including drumMUSTER, which has collected and recycled over 17 million used pesticide containers and ChemClear