EPA chemical reassessment rational, says Agcarm

MEDIA RELEASE: 15 October 2018

A strong food supply and healthy livestock are vital for the future of New Zealand’s primary industries and economy. The government reviews the tools that play an essential role in the fight against pests and diseases that threaten these.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) today announced its decision on the chemicals it will reassess. Part of this review evaluates the benefits and potential health risks posed by pesticides – ensuring they meet environmental and health safety standards.

The EPA has ranked 727 chemicals with an A to F ranking, with A being the most harmful. Despite recent attention, Glyphosate has been given an E rating (low risk).

Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross, says that the regulator’s approach is reasonable. “It’s sensible to retain low-risk products to manage pests and diseases, especially when there are no better alternatives. In fact, often, the alternative options are worse.”

The regulator reviews chemicals every few years, as alternatives find their way to market, and export and market requirements change. This allows the EPA to address exposure, label instructions, and mitigation measures.

The EPA must find reasonable certainty of no harm before registering or re-registering a pesticide. This also applies to reassessing an existing tolerance (pesticide residue limit).

Risk derives from toxicity and exposure – so the way pesticides are used is an essential part of the risk assessment.

The EPA’s risk assessment processes are put in place when evaluating chemicals. “Part of the process involves assessing the benefits of the chemicals to New Zealand. It’s important not to overlook this,” says Ross.

This is because the Authority must be confident that its assessments are scientifically-valid. If controls on chemicals need to be updated then it is important that the EPA go about this using a scientific risk-based method in consultation with industry.

“There can be no political, social or media interference,” adds Ross.

Agcarm supports the regulator’s approach and will work closely with it to form part of the conversation on reviewing the vital tools for New Zealand’s primary sector.