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Regulator Suspends Registration of High Volatile Forms of 2,4-D

3 October 2006

ref: mr08/06

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has today suspended the registration of high volatile (short chain) ester forms of the herbicide 2,4-D because of the risk these chemicals pose in relation to off-target damage to the environment and crops.

“The suspension applies to the registrations and label approvals of some 24 products containing high volatile ester (HVE) forms of 2,4-D namely the ethyl, butyl and isobutyl esters. These suspensions will be in effect from 3 October 2006 until 30 April 2007,” Dr Eva Bennet-Jenkins, APVMA Program Manager Pesticides, said today.

“During the period of suspension new directions for use apply to all products containing 2,4-D ethyl, butyl and isobutyl esters.”

These directions include:

  • the creation of a seasonal no-spray window (only allowing use between 1May and 31 August);
  • removing certain uses (in sugar cane, aquatic applications, on rights-of-way and as a harvest aid and salvage spray in cereal crops);
  • limiting maximum application rates to 800g 2,4-D active equivalents per hectare;
  • specifying buffer zones; and
  • record keeping requirements.

“These new directions for use will also apply to existing products on farm. Chemical manufacturers will be required to ensure that the new instructions are affixed to existing products currently in the supply chain and that all users who have purchased products are provided with the new instructions,” Dr Bennet-Jenkins said.

“The APVMA will consider permits for use of the product during the non-spray window in specific circumstances. Such permits will be contingent on relevant State and Territory authority assurance that risks to the environment and off-target crops are minimal and can be managed.”

“The APVMA’s decision to suspend the high volatile esters follows findings by the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) that the use of HVE forms of 2,4-D present a risk to non-target vegetation (including non-target crops) and aquatic organisms. The HVE forms of 2,4-D have a comparatively low vapour pressure and readily evaporate (volatilise) under typical Australian climatic conditions.”

Even when applied correctly, the chemicals can evaporate several hours or days after application. The vapour can migrate tens of kilometres in the wind in an unpredictable manner and can settle on whatever is in its path.

“The new requirements will remain in place until new data are generated which demonstrate that the environmental risks are acceptable, or that more stringent regulatory action is required. The first package of this data is due in February 2007.”

The 2,4-D review was triggered by concerns over toxicological, occupational health and safety and environmental issues (including impacts on waterways, non-target animals and plants). The current action was specifically based on environmental concerns.

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 have been 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.

Documentation relating to the 2,4-D review and media backgrounders can be found on the APVMA website.

Download a PDF version of this release (PDF, 46kb)

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Email: media@apvma.gov.au

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