From The Brisbane Times, Oct 24, 2012
Treaty may force farms to halt use of pesticide
- October 24, 2009
AUSTRALIAN farmers may be forced by an international environmental treaty to stop using a dangerous insecticide already banned in more than 60 countries.
Endosulfan has been linked to breast cancer, immunosuppression and birth defects, and was recently implicated in the discovery of millions of two-headed fish larvae in a Noosa River hatchery.
Although restrictions on the insecticide’s use were imposed by Australian authorities in 2005, it is still permitted for use on a wide range of citrus fruit, vegetables and cereals, despite a global trend of banning endosulfan outright.
However, as one of the 166 countries that are signatories to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Australia faces the likelihood of being forced into adopting a total ban, with the convention’s review committee in Geneva voting to prepare a risk management evaluation, the final step before proscribing endosulfan internationally.
The committee concluded that endosulfan ”is likely, as a result of long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted”.
India, the world’s largest producer of the chemical, was the only country to oppose the move.
A joint venture between the Australian agrichemical corporation Nufarm and the Shroff Group in Mumbai, known as Excel Crop Care, last year became the largest producer of endosulfan in India, with three plants in the country’s north.
In September, research from the University of Pittsburgh found serious flaws in the American methodology used by Australian regulators to assess endosulfan’s safety risk.
The United States is now reviewing its use of the insecticide.
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has deferred to the independent body, the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority, on the endosulfan issue.
The authority said the insecticide’s use had been limited and tightly regulated following the 2005 review but it was waiting on formal advice from the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts to determine if further regulatory action was warranted.
”Any such action would occur independently of processes under the Stockholm convention,” authority spokesman Dr Simon Cubit said.
National Toxics Network co-ordinator Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith said the Geneva decision was an expected and welcome move.
”The consensus of the scientific committee means endosulfan cannot be used safely by any country,” she said. ”It is the death knell for endosulfan.”
Ivan Kennedy, professor of agriculture and environmental chemistry at the University of Sydney, said a sudden ban on endosulfan would not be in Australia’s best interests and could cause some food prices to skyrocket.
”Regions with temperate climates and lower insect pest pressure, such as New Zealand and northern Europe, can afford to ban endosulfan,” he said.
”It is irresponsible to expect those at greater risk from insects to follow suit when no suitable alternative exists.”