GIVEN the headlines ‘Pesticide role probe’ and ‘Growers greet inquiry news as fantastic’ in the combined Christmas edition, it seems that a jubilant Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG) is set to take on the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority in its quest to continue using a insecticide banned in other nations decades ago because of the residual risks to children’s health.
This industry has had national and State government support to transition away from using fenthion. Indeed, WA exports the sterile fruit fly to South Australia. Other States and growers, including organic, grow stone fruit without relying on these chemicals.
How can HOIG be justified then?
Reading between the lines it is clear to see that the group and its political lobbyists have a broader and darker agenda to reduce the regulatory ‘burdens’ for industry to use pesticides in Australia.
Unfortunately, those regulatory ‘burdens’ involve public health and environmental protection.
Australia has a regulatory framework that has historically given industry a competitive advantage through soft regulation, enabling chemicals to stay on the market longer, keeping older, more hazardous chemicals available and allowing pesticide residues to remain in our food and without the checks and balances that the community expects.
National experts, scientists, industry and civil society and non-government organisations have just spent the past three years engaging in a review of the authority with legislation just passed, providing some great improvements for public health, the environment and regulatory accountability and transparency.
I fear the growers’ group wrecking ball tactics will see our public interest, our common good, our environment, our children’s health and our vision for safe, ecologically sustainable food production trashed.