THE Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has urgently referred test results to the Office of Chemical Safety after an ABC Four Corners investigation found elevated levels of dangerous dioxins in a generic version of widely used herbicide 2,4-D.
2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is a systemic herbicide used post emergence for the control of broadleaf and grass weeds on crops, turf, forestry and waterways.
Dioxins are chemical compounds that have been linked with a number of cancer and non-cancer health effects including reproductive effects and suppression of the immune system.
Four Corners broadcast the findings on Monday July 22 in a program on the legacy of herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, which reportedly killed many Australians who sprayed the dioxin-contaminated chemicals in the 1970s and '80s.
"The APVMA is always concerned about allegations of undeclared impurities found in registered products," APVMA chief executive Kareena Arthy said.
Croplife Australia CEO Matthew Cossey said he was worried by reports of cheaper generic substandard 2,4-D products coming into Australia, and a regulatory system should have an independent testing regime for substances like dioxins.
Croplife issued a statement last week calling on all parties to "commit in earnest to improving the national framework" for the regulation of agricultural chemicals in the lead up to the federal election.
Mr Cossey said while Australia was "fortunate to have an effective, robust, rigorous and scientific chemical registration system" which requires all chemical products to demonstrate their health and environmental safety before they can be registered for use in Australia, inconsistency in state laws was causing problems for the industry.
"Unfortunately inconsistency in state laws that control the use of agricultural chemical products and increased imports of illegal chemicals are undermining public confidence and must be addressed,” Mr Cossey said.
“There is little use in having a regulatory system that assesses and tests legitimate, registered products, while allowing cheap, untested, illegal product to cross our borders and put our farmers, environment and food supply at risk.
"Similarly, there is little use in having strict instructions for the safe use of approved chemical products if those rules are not enforced consistently and effectively."
A spokesperson for the company which owns the product tested by Four Corners said the APVMA did not have any guidelines for dioxins in 2,4-D.