Pesticide residue concerns

A Federal Government monitoring system tested about 80 samples in WA wholesale markets, including in Perth, finding that residue of pesticides fenthion and dimethoate on some exceeded the legal limit.

Since late 2012, as the Government began to investigate concerns it posed health risks, use of these chemicals in WA has been under strict regulation.

The Government alerted the WA Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), responsible for ensuring compliance, of the breaches.

DAFWA did not reveal whether those alleged to be at fault were from the Perth Hills or regional orchards.

A spokeswoman said DAFWA was assessing the information and liaising with the growers.

She said the law provided a compliance process that could result in penalties of up to $50,000, and also prevent the sale of produce.

The use of these pesticides to control mediterranean fruit fly infestation, and the lack of other viable options, has attracted growing scrutiny from all tiers of government for the past 18 months.

Hills growers have reported unsustainable crop losses to the pest, while industry and governments scrambled to solve the problem.

Last December, the matter was referred to a Senate committee, which visited Hills orchards and held public hearings in Perth as it investigated the effect of fenthion restrictions on Australia’s horticultural industry.

The committee will hand down its report next month.

– Brett DelSimone, spokesman for the Hills Orchard Improvement Group that represents most Perth Hills growers, said this was the exact scenario for which the regulators insisted on tenfold safety margins.

‘So it’s not panic stations, but it’s not ideal,’ he said.

‘The Department must educate and counsel these growers.

‘Following that, we support punitive follow-up measures.’