APVMA still has head in the sand regarding nano agrichemicals

A new report released by our agricultural chemicals regulator the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) this week shows that they are still failing to address the risks posed by the use of nanomaterials in agrichemicals. The regulator still claims nanomaterials are not being used in agrichemicals in Australia despite clear evidence to the contrary.

All the leading producers of agricultural chemicals, including BASF, Monsanto and Syngenta are actively researching nanotechnology for use in agriculture and pesticides with nanoscale ingredients are already on the market. This makes the APVMA’s claim that nanomaterials are not being used in Australia because no one has applied for regulatory approval untenable.

France is the first country globally to have adopted a mandatory register of nanomaterial use. Its 2013 statistics, released late in 2014, show that nearly 500,000 tonnes of nanomaterials were produced or imported into France in 2013. Over 58 per cent of the notifications made were for nanomaterials used in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Nanomaterials behave very differently to bulk forms of the same chemicals and are often more reactive and toxic. The incorporation of these substances into fertilisers, pesticides and seed treatments poses a range of new risks to human health and the environment that are currently unregulated.

The APVMA claims it is “at the forefront of regulatory development for nanomaterials as ‘new’ substances in agriculture and animal husbandry.”  It makes that claim despite the fact that its regulations do not require nano versions of existing chemicals to be assessed as new chemicals.

These nano-chemicals are being used on the food all of us eat and the APVMA cannot possibly know whether these foods are safe for us to eat, or farmers to use, because the necessary studies have not been done and are not even required by our regulators. A recent review concluded that research into the effects of nanomaterials in agricultural chemicals is so limited that the “the risk posed to humans consuming these food products is completely unknown.”

Friends of the Earth Australia is calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of nanomaterials in agricultural chemicals, pending full safety assessments, and the establishment of our own nano-register in order to allow the tracking of these materials through the food chain.