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Tough Stance on Cotton Insecticide

17 March 1999

Ref: NRA99/3

The National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRA) has agreed to tough new restrictions on the use of the insecticide endosulfan on cotton.

In announcing the restrictions, the NRA's Chairman, Dr John Keniry, said that the restrictions were in response to further information received by the NRA following the detection of unacceptable levels of endosulfan residues in beef.

"The legislation administered by the NRA requires the Authority to be satisfied that the ongoing approval of agricultural chemicals does not unduly prejudice trade", Dr Keniry said.

"Clearly in the case of endosulfan use on cotton, this has not been the case and Australia's important meat trade had been placed at risk.

"The restrictions are aimed at reducing spray drift which will help to avoid contamination of meat as well as further reducing potential effects of endosulfan on the environment, worker safety and public health".

The new restrictions, to be implemented well before the next cotton-spraying season include:

  • an absolute limit of three sprays per crop, per season;
  • mandatory prior notification of neighbours for application within specified buffer zones;
  • restricting use to a narrow time window of November to January;
  • adoption of application technology that reduces the likelihood of spray drift; and
  • mandatory downwind buffer zones.

The restrictions are additional to those announced by the NRA in August 1998 following a comprehensive review of endosulfan under the Existing Chemicals Review Program.

At this stage the NRA is not considering imposing the restrictions on other crops, including those grown in close proximity to cotton.

Dr Keniry said that extension of the restrictions to other crops might be considered in the future but at this stage it was the NRA's primary intention to evaluate the effectiveness of the most recent changes in cotton.

Dr Keniry said that the need for a much tougher stance on endosulfan use was well understood and supported by the cotton industry and State authorities responsible for controls over the use of chemicals in agriculture.

"I must stress, however, that the NRA will be monitoring the effectiveness of these changes during the next cotton season with a view to evaluating the appropriateness of continuing to allow endosulfan on cotton.

If continued use is to be permitted, then both New South Wales and Queensland authorities as well as the cotton industry have an important role in enforcing these restrictions and ensuring users act responsibly".

The NRA would be working cooperatively with State agencies and the cotton industry to implement the restrictions and to widely publicise them to growers, spraying contractors and advisers.