Friday, October 22, 2010

Australia joins other countries in banning endosulfan

A federal government agency has banned pesticides that use the toxic
chemical endosulfan, reversing earlier rulings that said it was safe
if used correctly.

The endosulfan ban is expected to affect a wide range of industries
that still use the pesticides, including many tropical fruit and
vegetable growers, nut farmers and cotton farmers.

''Substantial evidence demonstrates that endosulfan is highly toxic
for most animal groups, showing both acute and chronic effects at
relatively low exposure levels,'' said a report prepared for the
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, the federal
agency responsible for the new ruling.

Advertisement: Story continues below ''The continued registration and
approval of endosulfan in Australia is likely to have unintended
effects on the environment that cannot be mitigated,'' said the
report, which was prepared by the Environment Department and the
Department of Health and Ageing.

But the chemicals are ''not a significant risk to public health,'' the
report said, despite some international reports which have identified
endosulfan as an endocrine disruptor - interfering with hormones and

''The overall weight of evidence is that endosulfan has limited
endocrine disrupting potential in mammals,'' the report said.

In earlier updates, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines
Authority had resisted calls to deregister pesticides that contain
endosulfan. New research that has emerged since 2007 was responsible
for its change of position, it said yesterday. ''The previous decision
was made on the best available science at the time,'' said a spokesman
for the authority, Dr Simon Cubit.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said in June that it would move
to ban endosulfan in the US because of unacceptable ''neurological and
reproductive risks to farm workers and wildlife''.

It is already banned in more than 60 other countries, including the
European Union member states and New Zealand, and earlier this year
the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants listed
endosulfan as a ''persistent pollutant''.

The NSW Greens MP John Kaye, who has been campaigning against
endosulfan use along with Australian environment groups, claimed the
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority had been
shunning evidence of the dangers for the past two years.

The National Toxics Network also said the ban should have happened
sooner, and said the residues would remain in the environment for many

Cotton Australia said the use of all pesticides in the industry had
dropped 85 per cent in the past decade, so the ban would be unlikely
to damage the industry. ''It's one less weapon in the arsenal but it's
not a weapon that is that widely used,'' said the group's chief
executive, Adam Kay.

The ruling is still expected to hit sections of the pesticide industry hard.

One of the main Australian distributors of endosulfan-based
pesticides, Nufarm Australia, was unable to comment on the decision


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