Crop Spray Endosulfan

One of the world’s most toxic crop sprays, endosulfan, is still permitted for horticultural and insecticide use in Australia, despite the call for a global ban. Endosulfan is an organochlorine pesticide and internationally recognised persistent organic pollutant under the Stockholm Convention. It is used on a wide range of crops including tomatoes, citrus and cotton.

Endosulfan has been banned in over 55 countries, including the New Zealand government in January of this year. It’s highly toxic and has been detected in newborn babies, their mother’s placenta and breast milk. Research shows that the health effects of endosulfan include breast cancer, birth defects and immuno suppression. As an ‘endocrine (hormone) disruptor’, it persists in the human body and is passed on to the next generation across the placenta and in breast milk. Endosulfan is difficult to avoid, as it travels far from the crops it is applied to.

Endosulfan is suspected as one of the agricultural pesticides linked to a spate of two-headed fish in the Noosa River and a fish hatchery.

The Stockholm convention to be held next month, of which Australia is a signatory, is considering implementing a global ban on the production of endosulfan.

Australia’s National Toxics Network* Coordinator Ms Jo Immig, says that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), has failed to protect the community and environment from toxic pesticides. “Based on the overwhelming evidence of the toxicity and persistence of these pesticides in the Australian environment, it’s unconscionable the APVMA has failed to protect public health and the environment from these chemicals” said Ms Immig.

The multinational company Bayer, one of four providers of endosulfan in Australia is ceasing its production of endosulfan. NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye says “Bayer is certainly succumbing to a combination of international pressure and on the ground pressure in rural communities and from the environment movement to get out of a very dangerous chemical."

But Dr Simon Cubit, from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, (APVMA) says there's no evidence Australians are at risk. "Our legislation requires that we need evidence of harm to take regulatory action. All the evidence that we have so far, based on our effective regulation of this chemical, is that it's not presenting any problems at all." The APMVA has declined to comment on the recent report in September 09’s ‘Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’, that cites serious limitations of studies showing safety in the use of endosulfan.

It will take a long time for authorities and governments to agree on banning endosulfan use in Australia. In the meantime, Australia’s men, women and children are unwittingly being exposed to this chemical. Knowing where, and how is simply not possible. What then, are pregnant women and families with children who want to minimise their risk of being exposed to this and other unknown chemicals in the food chain to do until the probable global ban comes into force?

Growing your own vegetables is one way. It’s a great educational family activity that kids love – the community garden idea is another way of promoting growing your own veggies. Veggie growers can swap vegetables they have an excess of. It’s conceivable to have a group of neighbours growing just one or two veggies each and sharing them. Next time you’re at the nursery, buy a fruit tree or two. Oranges, lemons, plums and apples all grow well here.

If home gardening isn’t an option, you can buy fresh produce that you know has not been exposed, or grown near where endosulfan (and other pesticides) is used. Supporting local growers at markets who do not use harmful chemicals encourages farmers to continue the chemical free trend.

Organic produce is the simplest option – all the research is done for you. The debate about whether organic produce is better nutritionally than other produce has been overshadowed by it being chemical free. There is plenty of organic produce available in the Highlands; supermarkets offer a wide range of tinned, fresh, dried goods and meats There is an organic food home delivery service, two retail outlets and an organic co-op that offers lower prices. When you by organic food you support a growing industry that is promoting community health. A small price to pay.


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