FRUIT growers have been granted a one-year extension for the use of the chemical fenthion.
The broad spectrum organophosphorus (OP) insecticide was previously registered for use on a range of horticultural crops, including apples, avocado, capsicums, cucurbits, custard apples, grapes, mangoes, papaw, pears, tomatoes, stonefruit and ornamentals.
It was regarded as one of the last effective broad chemical treatments for fruit fly.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) plans to ban the use of fenthion as a cover spray in 12 months.
A final report, published by the APVMA in October, outlines the reasons for the final decision and takes into account submissions from governments, growers and the community.
It brought together the outcomes of all risk assessments done to date, including toxicology, residues in food, worker exposure and environmental effects.
All horticultural uses except for post-harvest dipping of tropical and subtropical inedible peel fruits are now cancelled. The ban follows previous regulatory actions taken by the APVMA in October 2012 to restrict uses of fenthion products in food production.
The decision follows a final round of consultation based on the preliminary review findings, which were published in May.
“A total of 15 submissions were received with no additional information or scientific data submitted for consideration. Following assessment of the submissions, the APVMA determined that the proposals put forward did not sufficiently reduce the risks associated with fenthion,” an APVMA statement said.
Apple and Pear Australia (APAL) limited have called for more help for growers during the fenthion phase-out period.
According to APAL CEO John Dollisson, fenthion was the last product available to fruit growers to control fruit fly.
“We were hoping for a two-year phase-out period to help growers adopt different management strategies, to fast-track research and development to find alternative solutions, and to give crop protection companies more time and incentives to develop safe and effective alternatives,” Mr Dollisson said.
“We accept the APVMA decision, but it’s a pity there wasn’t broader government action to ensure there was an alternative product or method to control fruit fly available before fenthion was banned.
“Our industry wants to continue to provide consumers high quality, nutritious and safe produce in the future, but we can’t do it without additional help once fenthion goes.”
APAL supports the use of a pest management strategy called Area Wide Management that involves monitoring, sanitation, lures, and baits, to manage fruit fly.
“We hope that more support from government and the private sector will be forthcoming to help find new products and strategies to help with fruit fly management and control,” he said.
Chairman of the peak stone fruit industry body, Summer Fruit Australia, Andrew Finlay told ABC radio the ban could push some growers out of the industry.
"If they (growers) were having second thoughts about leaving anyway, this could certainly be the final thing where it just becomes too hard, so time will tell on that," Mr Finlay said.
"I do know that down on the coast there have certainly been people who have gone out of stonefruit thinking that it's going to be too hard to control fruit fly.”
Fenthion products were first registered more than 40 years ago under the state-based approval processes, prior to the establishment of the APVMA.
Earlier this year the Federal Government committed $80,000 to help coordinate a national fruit fly strategy.
The federal government funding commitment coincided with Plant Health Australia (PHA) announcing the establishment of a National Fruit Fly Strategy (NFFS) Advisory Committee to oversee the implementation of the scheme.
The National Fruit Fly Strategy (NFFS) Implementation Action Plan was released in April 2010.