Dimethoate cut challenges farmers
FRUIT and vegetable growers have been forced to look for alternative insecticides after authorities suspended the use of dimethoate on a number of food crops.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) said the insecticide could be used only on certain crops.
A risk-assessment report found its use on many crops could exceed the recommended public health standard.
APVMA pesticides program manager Dr Raj Bhula said some of the estimated exposures for consumers were above the acute reference dose, reducing, but not breaching, the margins of safety that were normally in place to protect consumers.
"These safety margins, built into the APVMA's risk assessment, provide a protective buffer to ensure that consumers will not actually be exposed to high levels of residues in food," he said.
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers CEO Peter Hockings said the suspension of the use of dimethoate presented a challenge for farmers.
He said alternatives to dimethoate could be 20 times the price of the suspended insecticide.
He said producers would not be able to send their produce to markets in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New Zealand unless it had been treated with dimethoate.
"It's very complex for growers because the suspension is on a commodity by commodity basis," Mr Hockings said.
Produce such as tomatoes and capsicums are affected by the suspension, but it does not apply to potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Mr Hockings said if growers lost access to the southern markets it would produce a huge glut of produce in Brisbane and Sydney, which would mean a big drop in prices.
Dimethoate is used to control Queensland fruit fly, and Mr Hockings said they were trying to get some data together on alternatives.
They would then have to get acceptance from the southern markets that protocols were in place that were acceptable to them.
But he said they were working with regulators and growers to find solutions in the interests of growers and food safety.
SP Exports managing director Andrew Philip said the suspension was a bit of an inconvenience, but the company preferred not to use dimethoate on its crops anyway.