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Condemnation Of MPI's 'No Worries' Attitude To Glyphosate-contaminated Honey

The disturbing news that 20% of New Zealand's highly valued manuka honey has been contaminated by glyphosate (aka Roundup) was revealed in an exclusive story this week by One News journalist Thomas Mead. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Chief Scientist Dr John Roche downplayed the contamination, saying levels of glyphosate are too low to be harmful even though five of the samples tested were over the NZ regulatory limits.

Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticides Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand, disagrees. Dr Watts said today that the MPI and the Environmental Protection Authority NZ (EPA) are failing New Zealand’s producers who are suffering from other people’s use of pesticides.

“We should be learning from our history of food contamination with pesticides, not repeating the same mistakes. The banning of endosulfan in NZ in 2008 only came about because of the rejection by South Korea of New Zealand beef contaminated by that insecticide” she said.

“Endosulfan was gone with only a month’s phase-out despite howls of outrage from users. In spite of it having been ‘cleared’ by the then EPA forerunner ERMA, and widely used on council-run sports-grounds, it was swiftly banned by NZ when trade was at risk.”

“How long before glyphosate becomes the same pariah as endosulfan did in 2008 which was banned globally in 2011 following the New Zealand ban?” asked Dr Watts.

“Countrywide bans around the world and regulatory strictures on glyphosate will soon be overwhelming. Germany’s ban is on track for 2023; Italy banned post-harvest use and use in public places in 2016 as did France a year later; and in the EU, UK and USA many local authorities have ceased using it” said Watts.

“We should be taking action now, and the government should be supporting farmers and growers to transition away from pesticides like glyphosate as a matter of urgency. Alternatives like organic regenerative farming are viable and highly successful round the world but could benefit from government support in New Zealand instead of the “she’ll be right” attitude of MPI to pesticide contamination of highly valued exports.”

Hana Blackmore of the Weed Management Advisory (WMA) said the EPA and MPI are also failing the public because of their approval and tacit support for the use of these agrichemicals in public areas such as roads and parks.

“These are chemicals approved for agriculture – not for spraying the most vulnerable in our society, our babies and children and their pregnant mums,” said Blackmore. “These pesticides pose unacceptable risks to human health because of their effect at even low levels of exposure. The sort of exposure faced daily on the streets and parks from local authority spraying.”

The WMA also notes that far from reducing the use of glyphosate, as trumpeted by Local Authorities such as Auckland Council, there is evidence that growing plant resistance to glyphosate is actually increasing the use of other pesticides and chemicals.

“The common addition to glyphosate sprays of pesticides and surfactants like metsulfuron and organosilicone produce toxic mixes that have never been assessed by our EPA” says Blackmore. “Our regulatory authorities are totally failing to protect us, even as this latest debacle shows they have failed to protect our multi-million dollar honey industry.”

Jodie Bruning of the Soil and Health Association agrees. As she notes in her One News interview the tainting of the honey is not the beekeepers’ fault “it is the fault of a regulatory environment that doesn't control it enough. If New Zealand wants to be a cheap commodity producer, producing tainted food, then that's New Zealand choice, or we can actually have stronger regulation, which protects our free market.”

Brendan Hoare of Buy Pure New Zealand comments that the adage that if you suspect and find it somewhere, that it's probably everywhere. "This places decades of work by apiarists to create a high value, globally recognised brand in jeopardy. "

He adds that the MPI chief scientist Dr John Roche, “has not understood the issue, question or impact and exudes an attitude that is risky to New Zealand” he said.

“The conscious consumer - our customer, wants to believe in the NZ promise. A fundamental responsibility we have is to listen with intent and deliver with purpose. Research overwhelming shows a number one demand our target market wants is products free from pesticides. It's why our clients with certified organic honey are in demand.'”

Joint Media Release from the Weed Management Advisory (WMA), Pesticides Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand, (PANANZ) and Buy Pure New Zealand (Buy Pure).

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