Why are we so worried about chemicals?

The deaths of local magpies in the Greenbank area that occurred between May and June three years in a row  gave us pause for thought.  We believe the birds that died recently (June 2013) were taken for testing by either Biosecurity Qld or the RSPCA, but so far we’ve heard of no results.

The 2012 bird dieoff, in Harvest Rd, Greenbank,  (which was filmed and can be found at the top of our homepage) was found by Biosecuirity to have been caused by an organophosphate, Chlorpyrifos.  We believe the source of this chemical was the neighbouring farm, which had been conducting spraying activities within their greenhouses for several nights previous to the dieoff.  In defence of the farms, Cr Phil Pidgeon (who represents another Division) told the local press that the residents probably killed the birds by using lawn grub killer. (Admittedly, lawn grub killer does contain Chlorpyrifos, but in nowhere near the concentrations that farmers are permitted to handle.)  Given that so many properties here are Land for Wildlife, and therefore likely to disapprove of chemical use on their own properties, I’d lay my suspicions fimly with the farm in question.  But you can’t blame a Goose for trying!)

The following clipping is an excerpt from a story by Matt Condon in the Courier-Mail’s ‘QWeekend’ magazine  (July 27-28, 2013).  The story, titled ‘Liar Liar Ants on Fire’ is concerned with the attempts – and failures – of the Queensland Government in containing the spread of fire ants, that have arrived from the US via shipping and are rapidly spreading in southeast Queensland.  It seems that at one point, Chlorpyrifos and other chemicals were directly injected into fireant nests.   This excerpt is disturbing in its description of the ease with which such dangerous chemicals can be purchased and used, appropriately or not.  It’s also disturbing to read the authorities’ take on how toxic this chemical can be if released into the environment.  Read it and weep.

QWeekend july 2013

The 2011 bird dieoff, in Thompson Rd, Greenbank, made the front page of the Jimboomba Times.  In that case, the chemical found responsible on autopsy was Fenthion Ethyl.  Noone blamed the residents this time as fenthion is not available at all to the general public, making it’s origin most likely a local farm.

Here’s a little clipping from a recent gardening column in The Weekend Australian (July 20-21, 2013) which discusses chemicals that are no longer permitted on food crops, which since last year includes Fenthion.

weekend australianWhat’s interesting to me, in the light of our public stoush with Growcom CEO Alex Livingstone last year, is the phrase ‘no longer permitted on food plants’.  Mr Livingstone kept insisting that chemical use on farms is ‘heavily regulated’.  So we investigated.  The only ‘regulation’ we could find is a 2 day chemical handling course farmers must undertake eavery 5 years.  Apart from that we understand that produce is tested for chemical residues before it’s allowed to be sold at places such as Rocklea Markets – I guess this is a form of ‘regulation’ in the interests of public safety also.

But what worries us is the complete lack of ‘regulation’ in other areas that affect us as neighbours living near these operations.  Noone oversees chemical handling and storage on farms, and the fact that produce must be tested for residues before sale is an acknowledgement that contamination of food is possible with this type of chemical and fertiliser-dependent monoculture farming. (I have heard that one way heavily chemically-dependent farms get around this is to sell their produce directly to greengrocers in areas like Sunnybank and Inala – which is why so much of this produce is cheaper than elsewhere. It hasn’t been tested and could well be laced with dangerous levels of pesticides.)

So, what about contamination of the air, water and soil on farms where these chemicals are used?  What becomes of Chlorpyrifos and other chemicals that are sprayed on crops during the growing period?  When plants are ploughed back into the soil, where does the chlorpyrifos go?

It enters the environment, that’s what!  It binds to soil and washes into creeks during heavy rain events.  Using agricultural chemicals in this way in a rural residential precinct is dangerous and a health hazard.  Even the manufacturers’ guidelines (found elsewhere on this blog) make this abundantly clear.

For info on another significant event in Greenbank involving agricultural chemicals, check out the link on the main page with ‘Teargas’ in the title.

That we have had to fight so hard, and for so long, to get authorities to take our concerns seriously, is quite astonishing.

PS. Further to the ‘lawn grub’ issue in suburban gardens, here’s something from Kathy at LACA on natural pest control.

Deal with lawn grubs without toxic treatments.
Lawn grubs can become a real problem for some lawn owners, but often the chemical cures can be worse than the problem. So lets take a look at how to deal with lawn grubs from an organic and environmentally friendly perspective.
This article discusses larval lawn grubs from lawn beetles, as well as caterpillars such as Armyworm and Sod Webworm which are often also referred to as lawn grubs. http://thelawnguide.com.au/organic-lawns/421-lawn-grubs-organic-control.html
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