Macadamia chemical ban in US

ENDOSULFAN, a chemical used on about 20 per cent of Northern Rivers macadamia plantations to control fruit spotting bug, will be phased out in the US.

The move comes after the chemical was found in the fat of mammals living at the North and South poles.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, which controls the chemical’s use in Australia, was looking at research showing endosulfan could accumulate in the food chain, spokesman Dr Simon Cubit said.

“New research shows it evaporates in tropical and temperate regions and enters the airstream and crystallizes in the polar regions,” he said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said there were unacceptable ‘neurological and reproductive risks to farm workers and wildlife’ associated with the chemical’s use.

However, Dr Cubit said the authority’s concerns about the chemical were environmental and there was no health risk to humans because of strict controls put in place around its use in Australia.

The authority has asked the Department of Environment to provide advice about whether the chemical’s environmental impact on the arctic poles would trigger legislation in Australia.

If it is found to come under Australian jurisdiction the authority can take regulatory action.

Dr Cubit said the authority would first be required to look at mitigation of the chemical’s effects. “But how can you mitigate a risk like this?” he asked.

Australian Macadamia Society chief executive Jolyon Burnett said the ‘writing has been on the wall’ for endosulfan for some time.

“The community is looking to us for change,” he said.

In response the industry was looking at softer chemical controls, biological controls and on-farm changes in practices that would reduce the requirement for the chemical’s use.

Mr Burnett said when the chemical was applied under the conditions of use on its label there would be no harm to farm workers.

Australia is among a handful of countries, including India and Brazil, which still use endosulfan. More than 60 countries, including New Zealand, have banned it.

The review is expected to take a month. Endosulfan sales in Australia are worth $2.3 million a year.

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