Cotton Insecticide Contaminates Calves
May 20, 1996
Newborn calves in Australia are still being contaminated with
hazardous levels of the insecticide Helix (chlorfluazuron),
two years after cattle were fed cotton trash containing
residues of the pesticide. After finding high levels of Helix
in the cattle, several countries suspended beef imports from
Australia. Government inspectors believe that the pesticide
is being passed to calves through suckling. Due to a drought
in 1994, many Australian farmers were forced to feed cattle
alternative feeds, which in some cases included cotton trash
containing chlorfluazuron residues.
National Toxics Network, an Australian public interest group,
states that Helix was given special government approval for
use on cotton despite being provisionally registered due to
concerns about its persistence in the environment. Recent
research by the Meat Research Corporation (Australia) found
that Helix residues may never disappear from older cattle,
and that farmers may be able to sell contaminated cattle only
for pet food.
In 1995, cattle farmers filed a class action suit against the
Australian government and Crop Care Australasia, the company
that marketed Helix in Australia. The suit seeks compensation
for losses in beef sales resulting from the initial pesticide
contamination, and was filed before anyone knew that losses
would continue in the next generation of cattle. The suit,
which represents approximately 460 cattle farmers, alleges
that chlorfluazuron was registered without adequate testing.
Crop Care Australasia announced last year that it was
withdrawing the pesticide from the Australian market as an
"act of good faith."
Farmers in New South Wales and Queensland may file a similar
lawsuit against the Australian government due to cattle
contamination by the organochlorine insecticide endosulfan.
The farmers' lawyer charged that the Australian National
Registration Authority labeled endosulfan inadequately.
Approximately 23 farms were placed in quarantine after
inspectors discovered the insecticide in beef cattle at
levels above the maximum residue limit, possibly due to spray
drift contaminating grazing land. In Australia, endosulfan is
used primarily on cotton. Endosulfan has been targeted for
global phaseout by pesticide reform groups worldwide due to
its extreme toxicity (see PANUPS June 16, 1995 and June 16,
1994). It has also been identified as an endocrine disruptor.
National Toxics Network stated that the endosulfan and
chlorfluazuron cases are not the first reports of Australian
cattle being contaminated with pesticides. In 1987,
organochlorine residues were detected in beef shipped to the
U.S., and since that time Australian beef exporters have lost
millions of dollars due to concerns about chemical
Sources: Agrow, February 16, 1996; January 19, 1996; February
3, 1995; National Toxics Network Sentinel, February 1995.
Contacts: PANNA; National Toxics Network Community
Information System, 47 Eugenia Street, Rivett, ACT 2611,
Australia; email email@example.com.
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