16 Dec 2008

ERMA bans use of toxic chemical

11:17 am on 16 December 2008

Use of the chemical pesticide endsolfan will be banned from mid-January, following a decision by the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

ERMA has been reviewing the use of endosulfan as part of a reassessment of the continued use of some agrichemicals.

Endosulfan has been used as an insecticide on a variety of crops including vegetables, berries and citrus fruits.

It is acutely toxic to humans at high levels and ERMA says its use has declined over the past 10 years.

The pesticide was responsible for losses of exports in recent years after overseas authorities detected traces of it in shipments of New Zealand beef.

ERMA says the ban will come into effect from 16 January. Disposal of stocks should be done within 12 months.

The authority says it wanted to stop the use of endosulfan as quickly as possible, but recognised the need to allow time for safe disposal.

Horticulture New Zealand had asked the authority to phase out the chemical over five years instead of an immediate ban.

The organisation's chief executive Peter Silcock said the decision gives growers little more than a month to come up with alternatives.

He said that may mean growers can't control insects properly, and the quality would not be up to that required for export markets, and some produce may be so badly affected it will not be saleable at all.

Soil and Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning applauds the authority's decision, saying it sends a clear message that ERMA can look at pesticides in more rigorous way.