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No more methyl bromide in food or near homes

30 October 2006

No more methyl bromide in food or near homes

The practice of fumigating imported fruit and vegetables with the highly toxic fumigant methyl bromide should be stopped immediately, and effective alternatives such as steam sterilisation should be required instead, Green Party Safe Food and Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The Green Party is also calling for an end to methyl bromide fumigation of containers in residential and urban areas.

The Local Government and Environment Select Committee, which has just released its report on a petition calling for the phasing out of the use of methyl bromide, was provided with a list of more than 6000 sites in New Zealand, many of them in residential areas, where containers can be fumigated with methyl bromide.

"Methyl bromide is a highly toxic fumigant and it is extremely concerning that fruit and vegetables intended for human consumption are being fumigated with it," Ms Kedgley says.

"Steam sterilisation is a viable, effective and, most importantly, safe, way of fumigating fruit and vegetables. There is no need to use methyl bromide, and the Green Party is calling on the Government to make it a requirement that this safe method be used instead.

"It is also totally unacceptable for containers to be fumigated next to homes, when at the end of the fumigation, the container doors are opened and the toxic gas is released directly into the atmosphere. The government should only permit fumigation to take place in dedicated sites located in industrial zones.

"In the meantime, until such time as it is prohibited, it is essential that residents are told when containers are being fumigated right next to where they live, and that the gas is recaptured as a condition of its use. This is already mandatory in some Australian states.

"New Zealand's use of the ozone-depleting gas methyl bromide has doubled despite the fact that New Zealand has signed conventions pledging to reduce use of the fumigant. There are still no financial or any other incentives or penalties that would require its use to be phased out, even though New Zealanders' health is threatened by the expanding hole in the ozone.

Maps showing where containers are fumigated in some of the main cities of New Zealand are available on request.


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