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Petition to ban pesticide

A Featherston environmentalist has presented the Minister of Finance with a petition calling on Parliament to ban the use of a pesticide that’s been shown to be especially harmful to children.

Grant Robertson accepted the petition from Wairarapa organic farmer and former member of the Featherston Community Board Claire Bleakley and fellow anti-pesticide campaigner and Safe Food Campaign [SFC] co-convenor Alison White on the steps of the Beehive in Wellington.

The petition, which 780 people have signed, asks Parliament to undertake an urgent reassessment of chlorpyrifos, an insect and pest killer, and then ban the substance in New Zealand.

SFC literature accompanying the petition said it is already banned in at least 39 countries.

Robertson said he was happy to accept the petition, which was an important part of the democratic process. Now it’s been accepted; it can be put into the committee process. Depending on its progress, the petitioners may be asked to provide extra information.

“It could possibly be opened up for submissions as well,” Robertson said.

The Environmental Protection Authority has had the issue on its agenda for some years, and Robertson noted the petition might provide impetus to its consideration.

Bleakley, who is also a member of the Pesticide Action Network of Aotearoa NZ, said the substance was currently used on some Wairarapa food and crops but was not allowed in organic systems.

“Children are particularly at risk from exposure to even minute amounts of chlorpyrifos, such as residues in food,” White said.

“A recent study found New Zealand school-age children had levels of chlorpyrifos metabolites between two and seven times higher than their peers in the USA, Canada, Spain or Thailand.

“We urgently need to get this toxic pesticide out of our children’s food. It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit, and green vegetables.”

Bleakley said unborn children were even more vulnerable, with exposure to even low levels of the substance thought to cause structural changes in the developing brain and losses in cognitive function.

The documentation with the petition said chlorpyrifos met the initial United Nations process for a global ban because of its environmental and human health impacts. The substance is thought to persist in the environment, be able to bioaccumulate in the food chain, and is highly toxic to people and aquatic and terrestrial organisms. The spray drift of the pesticide is carried through the air for long distances and has been found in Antarctica,

“The reassessment has been delayed, but in view of the recent study of New Zealand children, we cannot wait for this process to work its way through slowly,” White said.

“It’s time for Aotearoa New Zealand to step up to its commitments to its environment and to keeping children safe.”

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