Time to ban aerial spraying here too

Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ
Soil & Health Association
Safe Food Campaign

“Congratulations to the European Union for their enlightened approach to protecting human health and the environment by progressing plans to ban aerial spraying of pesticides”.

That’s the message today from Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ, the Soil & Health Association and the Safe Food Campaign.

The EU’s Environment Committee has endorsed plans by the European Commission for a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides as part of a wide-ranging strategy to cut down the use of pesticides.

“Its time now for New Zealand to also look at banning aerial spraying of pesticides” said Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network. “Far too many people have had their lives blighted by aerial spraying in both rural and urban areas of New Zealand. Terrible health effects have resulted from the aerial spraying of the herbicide 2,4-D; and the adverse effects of the unnecessary spraying of West Auckland for the Painted Apple moth are still being felt.”

“Many horticultural growers have lost valuable crops to drift from the aerial spraying of 2,4-D” added Steffan Browning of Soil & Health. “Soil & Health often receives complaints of cross-boundary spray drift.”

“ The aerial spraying of highly toxic insecticides such as chlorpyrifos is still permitted in New Zealand, even though this insecticide is known to cause adverse developmental effects in children and has been restricted in the US” said Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign.

The three organisations, which have been trying to combat pesticide problems in New Zealand for many years, also welcome other initiatives by the EU and urge the New Zealand government to be equally proactive in reducing pesticide use here.

These initiatives include:

* A national pesticide use reduction target of 25% within 5 years, and 50% within 10 years, including non-agricultural uses
* A system of levies on pesticides to fund the reduction plan
* Ban on pesticides in all areas used by the general public (e.g. parks, school grounds, residential areas) and in “substantial no-spray zones” around them.
* A buffer zone of 10m around all water courses
* Using the ‘substitution principle’ whereby more dangerous substances will be removed from the market if safer alternatives exist

“These are all very good measures that will certainly contribute substantially to improved public health and environmental integrity”, said Dr Watts. “New Zealand has dragged its feet for many years on this issue, trying to shuffle it under the carpet and manage the problems by talking with industry. But progress has been too slow. Until this country is prepared to take a firm stand on pesticides the issue will not go away.”

”One of the major problems New Zealand has failed to deal with is the unregulated non-commercial uses.”

“Right now untrained home gardeners can access all kinds of toxic herbicides and are enthusiastically waging war on weeds, with no clue about the toxic effects of the herbicides they are exposing themselves and their neighbours, too – let alone the effects on the wider environment” said Dr Watts. This is simply no longer acceptable in so-called developed country.”

“Soil & Health has recently requested that ERMA reassess home gardeners access to pesticides,” said Steffan Browning.

The European Committee stressed that only quantitative use reduction targets in the national action plans will push governments to lower the amount of pesticides used. The Member States are urged to promote low pesticide-input farming and organic farming, giving priority to non-chemical alternatives.

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