13 Oct 2011

Federated Farmers wary of EPA chemicals review

8:30 am on 13 October 2011

Federated Farmers says it is concerned that plant-protecting chemicals currently being reviewed by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) could be phased out before suitable alternatives are available.

The EPA is reviewing more than 80 organophosphates and carbamates, which are generally used to protect crops from pests, and has asked the sector for information on the impact of any changes.

Federated Farmers vice-president William Rolleston says they welcome the decision to engage with industry and their 12,000 members will be surveyed to find out how they use the chemicals on-farm.

He says the group's submission to the EPA will include concerns about the cost to the industry if chemicals are phased out before alternatives are available.

Dr Rolleston cites the example of grass grub, which, he says, costs New Zealand hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Viable alternatives would need to be readily available, he says, before current products were phased out.

Environment for new chemicals 'hostile'

Meanwhile, the group representing the manufacturers and distributors of the chemicals - AGCARM - says New Zealand is not well set up to deliver alternatives if the organophosphates and carbamates are banned.

Chief executive Graeme Peters says that although the chemicals have been used for a long time and should be replaced, the environment is not right for new chemicals to come through.

"The Government has set up a hostile environment to the launch of new chemicals," he says. "As a result, we don't have the alternatives we need for the old chemistries, so we're forced to continue to use hazardous persistent substances."

Mr Peters suggests setting up proper intellectual property protection around the regulatory data required to introduce a new chemical.