A newly published study by a research team at Southern Cross University on the impact of pesticides on local waterways in the Byron Shire was made possible with the support of a grant from Santos Organics, and the outcomes of this study were recently published in a high-quality scientific journal on Environmental Science & Policy.

The study examined the most toxic pesticides that are likely used in the Byron Shire, and their potential impact on our local waterways. The toxic pesticides identified were: paraquat, bromoxynil and diquat. Paraquat is commonly used on sugar cane, cereals and oilseeds; bromoxynil on cereals and canola, while diquat is commonly used on oilseeds, sugar cane, cereals and for grazing.

The research team found evidence of the harmful effects of all three pesticides, most specifically for paraquat’s impact on aquatic organisms. In aquatic environments, at realistic field concentrations, diquat was found to be toxic to snails and bromoxynil to microalgae. The strongest evidence of a negative impact on aquatic organisms was however demonstrated by paraquat as “paraquat: (i) severely inhibited healthy bacterial growth (E. coli), (ii) distorted tropical freshwater plankton communities, and (iii) increased fish kills (common carp) three times more than the weed (water hyacinth) that it was employed to control.” This is concerning as paraquat has been banned in many countries around the world, but is still widely used in Australia. While some Australian government regulations restrict the sale of paraquat in agriculture, less is known about the effectiveness of these regulations, the extent of the pesticide use, and the levels entering local environments.

The research team concluded that future research is still needed to evaluate the extent of paraquat use in Australia, the amount of paraquat entering the environment, as well as the efficacy of government guidelines in protecting the aquatic environment and at the same time protecting human health. If you are interested in reading the full published study you can click here to download it.

If the use of pesticides concerns you, by choosing organic produce you are already voting against the use of pesticides, because organic agriculture is governed by strict government standards ensuring production is undertaken without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides as well as synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other nasties. If you are interested in finding out more about the meaning and benefit of choosing Certified Organic make sure you read this great article.

Authors: Nedeljka Rosic; Joanne Bradbury; Megan Lee; Kathryn Baltrotsky; Sandra Grace
Journal: Environmental Science & Policy
Publication: Volume 106, April 2020, Pages 12-21

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