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Regulator Proposes to De-Register Some Forms of 2,4-D

18 April 2006

ref: mr06/02

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has today proposed that agricultural chemicals containing short-chain ester forms of 2,4-D be de-registered because of the unacceptable risks they pose in relation to off-target damage to the environment and crops.

The proposal is contained in the Preliminary Review Findings (Environment), Part One: 2,4-D Esters report which was released for public comment today. This contains the preliminary environmental risk assessment of all forms of 2,4-D and a refined environmental risk assessment and proposed regulatory action for the short-chain 2,4-D esters ONLY.

“Assessment of data by the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) for the APVMA found that under experimental conditions ester forms of 2,4-D are toxic to non-target vegetation, aquatic plants and algae, and fish,” Dr David Loschke, APVMA Principal Scientist said.

“This is particularly a problem with short-chain ester forms of 2,4-D which have the ability to evaporate (volatilise) after application under certain environmental conditions.”

“If the chemical evaporates after application, it can be transported long distances and in unpredictable directions by the wind.”

“The APVMA found that these risks could not be adequately mitigated.”

“In the absence of any effective methods to control this behaviour of short-chain ester formulations and because the drifting vapour has the potential to cause significant damage to non-target vegetation and aquatic environments, the APVMA cannot be satisfied that these products can continue to be used safely’, Dr Loschke said.

“Short chain ester forms of 2,4-D have not been registered or available for use in North America or Europe for some time, and this proposal will bring Australia into line with these countries,” he said.

A second report (Part Two) of the environmental assessments of the acid, salt, and long-chain (low-volatile) ester forms of 2,4-D will be released in the near future.

A further report which covers the toxicological and occupational health and safety evaluations is expected to be available in early 2007.

These evaluations may result in further regulatory actions.

Recent parallel evaluations of 2,4-D in the USA and the European Union have concluded that the approval of non-volatile forms may continue.

Products containing 2,4-D are commonly used for control of broadleaf weeds in an extensive range of crops and non-cropping situations. Aerial, ground spray and handheld methods of application are used. Major agricultural uses of 2,4-D include cereal and oilseed crops, pasture, stubble and fallow maintenance. It is also used on cotton, citrus crops, sugar cane, sweetcorn, peanuts and in non-cropping areas for weed control.

2,4-D is produced in a number of chemical forms which fall into three groups: 2,4-D acid, salts and esters. The short chain ester forms of 2,4-D are ethyl ester, butyl ester and iso-butyl ester.

Comment is sought on the Preliminary Review Findings report. The comment period closes on May 31, 2006.

Documentation relating to the 2,4-D review and a backgrounder providing further information on the Preliminary Review Findings can be found on the APVMA website.

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