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Does the APVMA allow the use of dangerous agricultural chemicals in Australia?

23 July 2010

Given that pesticides are designed to kill unwanted plants or insects, all are potentially dangerous. The APVMA's role is to scientifically evaluate those chemicals proposed for use in Australia and establish if they can be used safely subject to any restrictions and conditions the APVMA may impose.  If they can, they are permitted. If not, they are denied market access.

More detail

Generally speaking, pesticides are chemicals designed to kill unwanted pests or diseases. Many can be dangerous if mishandled or misused. The APVMA is acutely aware of the potential hazards chemicals present when considering applications to allow them to be used in Australia. Our primary goal is to protect human health and the environment.

The key issue the APVMA considers is the exposure people or the environment might face if the chemical was to be used, and the possible effects of this exposure. If that exposure can be reduced to safe levels through imposing conditions on the way the chemical is used, then the APVMA is likely to allow its use. If it can’t be reduced to safe levels, the application is refused.

The APVMA by law has a wide variety of measures it uses to reduce exposure. These include:

  • low concentrations of the active constituent
  • limits to how regularly a chemical can be used in one location or on a specific crop
  • limits to the crops on which it can be used
  • limits to the way it can be applied
  • a requirement to use personal protective equipment such as overalls, gloves and face masks
  • limiting/prohibiting use near waterways
  • limit the supply and use to  operators that have specific training and/or equipment
  • setting maximum residue limits for food items
  • requiring buffer zones
  • setting withholding periods.

Any conditions the APVMA may impose become label instructions on the chemical product itself and are legally enforceable.

Once approved, the ongoing safety of pesticides is monitored through a variety of feedback mechanisms, involving authorities at State and Territory level.

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