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Government must admit complicity in Dioxin scandal

16 September, 2004

Government must admit complicity in Dioxin scandal

Green MP Sue Kedgley is demanding the Government atone for the complicity of successive administrations in actively promoting the widespread use of 2,4,5-T, by providing free medical treatment and counselling for dioxin-poisoned New Plymouth residents.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Party Health spokesperson, has obtained papers showing that the government started providing a 50 per cent subsidy to farmers using 2,4,5-T in 1969, and continued that practice for many years.

"The governments of the day were also fully aware of the health risks of 2,4,5-T," said Ms Kedgley. "The government-appointed Agricultural Chemicals Board was alerted as early as 1970 that the USA had put in place 'severe restrictions' on 2,4,5-T, following the results of tests on animals.

"The Board chose to turn a blind eye to these and many subsequent warnings, arguing instead that any restrictions on its use 'could well deny the use of chemicals whose benefits far outweigh any risks'."

Ms Kedgley noted that in 1977 the Department of Health repeated its official view that 'there is no need to take any restrictive action against 2,4,5-T and that there was 'no evidence of any link between 2,4,5-T and human birth defects'.

These assertions were repeated in 1979, and in the 1986 report of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry to the Minister of Health.

"Clearly the government worked hand-in-glove with Dow and for years encouraged and subsidised farmers to use 2,4,5-T for the control of gorse," said Ms Kedgley. "As a result New Zealand became the highest user of 2,4,5-T in the world."

Ms Kedgley questioned whether the level of government complicity in the use of 2,4,5-T could well be the reason successive governments have sought to downplay and minimise health concerns about it.

"It was complicit in its widespread use and in falsely reassuring citizens of its safety against mounting international evidence," said ms Kedgley. "Whatever the mistakes of the past, it is crucial that this Government finally acknowledges and addresses the historic wrong caused to the people of Paritutu.

"At the very least the government should provide exposed residents to the same free treatment and counselling that it provides Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange."


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