Safe Food Campaign & Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa
Media release: 2 March 2006
Ban persistent pesticide found in our food
An insecticide banned in 20 countries has been found in food at higher levels compared to several years ago and at higher levels than found in Australia and the US. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority released the final report this week of the 2003/04 Total Diet Survey which looks at pesticides and contaminants in our food. Intake of the insecticide endosulfan is estimated to be almost 40 times higher for males compared to the Total Diet Survey of 1997/8.
This evidence is being presented to the Local Government and Environment Committee at parliament today at 11am. Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa, and Alison White of Safe Food Campaign will both be presenting material to support the petition of Kees Bon and 146 others calling for the banning of toxic pesticides and greater restrictions on the use of pesticides in New Zealand.
Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide used on a wide range of fruit and vegetables in New Zealand. It has triggered international action because of its persistence and its ability to accumulate up the foodchain. It has been found all round the world, including in birds, groundwater, marine sediments, snow and even the bark of trees. Contaminated with dioxins, it is also a known endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant, that is, it may have an effect on hormones at minute quantities, and has been linked to breast cancer, birth defects and lowered IQ.
In the most recent Total Diet Survey, endosulfan was found in nine different foods: tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, courgette, pear, oil, peanuts, peanut butter and salad dressing. The highest levels were in tomatoes. In some other tests published by the Authority, strawberries also contained the insecticide.
"It is time endosulfan was banned in New Zealand, because it has the ability to have a harmful effect on the environment and our bodies and is also a risk to trade ", commented Ms White, Co-convenor of the Safe Food Campaign. "An ultra low dose of endosulfan, such as may be in food, may cause changes in hormone function and effects on organ development that often only appear later in life. The timing of the exposure to the foetus or young child is at least as important as the dose. I recommend that pregnant women and young children especially get these foods organically and lower their risk of exposure. "
"We have one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world, yet we are still using a pesticide known to increase the risk of breast cancer and still permitting residues of it in our food. Horrific effects have been observed overseas as a result of exposure to endosulfan including many deaths. It is unbelievable that in the 21st century we are still using such a highly toxic and ubiquitous environmental pollutant in our so-called clean, green agriculture " said Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network. "With this latest finding ERMA must now urgently review endosulfan with a view to banning it completely. "
For enquiries contact:
Alison White, Co-convenor Safe Food Campaign, (04)476 8607, (021)1699 120
Dr Meriel Watts, Co-ordinator Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa, (09)372 2034, (025)602 3194