By Cameron Gair
A ban by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) announced a ban on the fruit fly pesticide Fenthion has been described by WA orchardists as a ‘national disgrace’.
Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG) spokesman Brett DelSimone said the ban doesn’t make sense.
“The APVMA claims there is an unacceptable risk to consumer health particularly to those in infant range, but this is based on a mathematical algorithm that ignores the fact that this product has been used in Australia for over fifty years with not one case of human harm from fresh produce,” said Mr DelSimone.
“These claims are in direct contrast to the actual physical evidence of the product’s past usage.”
The ban is a result of a 16-year process in which the APVMA reviewed the impact of Fenthion on the environment, human health, residues in food and trade concerns.
A 12 month phase-out period has been granted to enable enable existing stocks of Fenthion to be used.
Mr DelSimone said fruit growers in Western Australia will face massive commercial losses when the ban takes place.
“Produce comes into Australia from overseas sprayed with chemicals that Australian producers cannot use on their own produce which feeds the same consumer,” he said.
Save Our Trees spokeswoman Alex Jones said the ban is a good move but should have happened earlier.
“Apart from the adverse effects on humans, such as interference with the nervous system, respiratory problems, coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and general flu-like symptoms, including cardiac arrest in extreme cases, Fenthion is highly toxic to birds as well as insects, including our precious bees,” said Ms Jones.
Ms Jones says the question needs to be asked why WA has been selling sterile fruit flies to the SA Department of Agriculture for close to a decade but failed to adopt a similar environmentally sustainable programme at home.
“South Australia has successfully grown fruit and vegetables without this toxic product. They have a Sterile Fruit Fly programme that has kept their fruit flies under control,” said Ms Jones
In response to claims Fenthion is a danger to birds, Mr DelSimone said it wasn’t an issue in WA.
“Only aerial-sprayed Fenthion has been proven to be a threat to birds, which we don’t do here,” he said.