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Banned pesticides used on NZ fruit

Press Release August 22, 1999

The government should explain why two pesticides blacklisted in America this month are still allowed to be used in New Zealand, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

The action has been taken in the United States because of fears that the two pesticides, both organophosphates, can cause nervous system and brain damage, especially in young children. Organophosphates were developed from World War II research into nerve gas weapons.

Methyl parathion has been banned from use on all fruit and many vegetables, and growers are required to use smaller amounts of azenphos methyl and to stop spraying it 21 days before harvest.

Both pesticides are registered for commercial use in New Zealand up to 14 days before picking, but producer boards require growers to minimize their usage in spray programmes.

"Why are we taking risks with the health of New Zealanders that other countries are not prepared to take with the future of their children?" Ms Fitzsimons said.

"It is obvious that our export partners are becoming more and more worried about the long-term health effects of pesticide residues. If we don't revise our current pesticide regulations, it could put our overseas markets for fruit and vegetables at risk."

Ms Fitzsimons said that the registration of pesticides in New Zealand had been in limbo for some time.

"The 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act which requires a precautionary approach is still not in force. It is urgent that it become operational."

Responsibility for registering new pesticides was meant to pass to the Environmental Risk Management Authority in April, but the transfer has still not occurred. The authority was also supposed to begin a review of 113,000 registered substances in April, in accordance with the 1996 Act.

"While we are waiting, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry should suspend the use of pesticides found to be dangerous overseas," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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