Steffan Browning

Chemicals remain in our foods

by Steffan Browning

The Environmental Protection Authority is effectively the Chemical Promotions Authority with its decision yesterday allowing continued use of all organophosphate (OP) and pesticides currently used in New Zealand, although safer alternatives exist.

Although some will be phased out between 2 and 15 years, the only banned OP chemicals are those no longer in use.

Organophosphates have neurotoxic and reproductive effects, some at very low doses, but apart from the important restriction on home garden use (except from the lawns of the rich using an approved applicator) it is effectively business as usual in our chemical paradise.

The EPA is following the same path as always, playing down the serious risks to people and the environment and will only stop use of these dangerous chemicals when our trading partners call a halt. The organophosphate chlorpyrifos, has been found to interfere with the brain and central nervous system, with the prenatal brain being especially vulnerable to low doses. One published study published showed that children with higher levels of the organophosphate insecticides in their urine were more likely to have ADHD.

Diazinon, which is a major cause of bird death has been given 15 years of further use, and chlorpyrifos which is environmentally persistent in the same way as endosulfan and DDT, now banned, has no phase out. For example, clorpyrifos is found in the Arctic continuing its ecological damage, long after its original application.

New Zealand only banned endosulfan following threats to market access when meat exports to Korea we’re found to include traces of endosulfan. Clearly chlorpyrifos and diazinon use will continue until our trading partners demand a halt, not because the EPA is doing its real job as an Environmental Protection Authority. The countries of the European Union are all embarking on developing national pesticide reduction policies, and once again New Zealand is lagging behind.

The EPA has suggested controls to reduce the inevitable harm to people, birds and bees, but there is little chance of wide compliance. Alternative solutions to organophosphates exist and many farmers and growers do not use them, but the EPA Chemical Promotions Authority has bowed to the self-interest and short term approach to primary production.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Steffan Browning on Fri, June 28th, 2013   

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