Pesticide, weedkiller narrative ‘a real dilemma’ - farming advocate

Rural Exchange 25/08/2018

A farming advocate warns of the ramifications for New Zealand’s food production as pressure mounts on pesticides and weedkillers used in the country.

“It’s really essential that we retain our current products that are valuable here in New Zealand,” said Mark Ross, chief executive of farming advocacy group Agcarm.

They are critical to New Zealand in our food production farming systems.

Mr Ross told RadioLIVE that the “hype” around agri-chemicals will be a challenge for New Zealand farmers going forward, particularly where public narratives ignore science-based evidence.  

Last week, Mitre 10 moved to phase out pesticides containing neonicotinoids from its 82 stores as a nod to the “welfare of bees and wider environment”. The move comes months after the European Commission voted to ban neonicotinoid pesticides at the end of 2018.

But Mr Ross says neonicotinoids are used differently in New Zealand, where most farmers apply the chemical to seeds and root systems.

Neonicotinoids were brought to New Zealand in the 1990s.

“They’re not actually sprayed in the environment. They are critical to New Zealand in our food production farming systems.”

He told RadioLIVE that Agcarm would be concerned about bees should the evidence stack up, suggesting that former studies applied chemicals directly on the bees, which isn’t the case in nature.

Agcarm also opposed Christchurch’s ban on chemical glyphosate, commonly sold as Roundup, to control weeds in the city.

Despite the chemical’s classification as "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Agcarm disputed the chemical's danger and said spending additional money to control weeds was a "poor use of public money".

Watch the full interview with Mark Ross above.

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