- Australian beef has been rejected for
export because of excessive residues of endosulfan, an organochlorine insecticide.
A representative of the Australian Minister of Agriculture stated that
high endosulfan levels in beef from farms in New South Wales and Queensland
are most likely the result of increased cotton plantings and high pesticide
use to control insects. Endosulfan residues can be found in cattle when
pastures are contaminated by pesticide drift from neighboring cotton fields
or when the animals are fed cotton gin trash containing the chemical. Cotton
plantings are expected to increase by 25% this year, to approximately 547,000
- The maximum residue level of endosulfan
allowed in beef sold in Australia is 0.2 mg/kg, twice the international
(Codex) level of 0.1 mg/kg. Some beef samples taken from affected properties
in Queensland recently contained as much as 0.36 mg/kg, almost twice the
Australian limit and almost four times the international limit.
- The Australian National Residue Survey
has already targeted about 1,400 cattle farms as vulnerable to contamination
from cotton spraying and the cattle raised on these farms are closely monitored
for endosulfan residues. The government has proposed an increase in the
number of targeted farms and that more information on use of endosulfan
be provided to cotton and cattle farmers.
- The Australian National Registration
Authority, the government body that regulates pesticide use, has called
for reductions in endosulfan use and imposed some restrictions in an attempt
to limit worker and environmental impacts. In July 1999, growers will be
required to keep spray application records and limit applications to two
per season for non-orchard crops. An earlier proposal to limit applications
to "essential" uses was dropped after lobbying by growers, grower
groups and commodity organizations.
- These latest incidents occurred at a
time when the Australian cotton industry was about to launch its "Good
Neighbors" environmental stewardship program. Cotton Australia, the
cotton industry association, has proposed an auditing process that would
award certification to farms meeting environmental standards set by the
- In 1996, approximately 23 farms in New
South Wales and Queensland were placed in quarantine after inspectors discovered
endosulfan in beef cattle at levels above the maximum residue limit, possibly
due to grazing land that had been contaminated by spray drift. Lawyers
for the farmers maintained that restrictions on endosulfan use issued by
the Australian National Registration Authority were inadequate.
- Endosulfan has been banned and severely
restricted in many countries around the world as governments respond to
its acute human toxicity, and the high numbers of reported poisonings.
It has been targeted for global phaseout by pesticide reform groups worldwide.
In recent years, endosulfan has also been identified as an endocrine disrupting
- Australia has had other problems with
pesticide residues in cattle. In 1996, newborn calves in Australia were
found contaminated with hazardous levels of the insecticide Helix (chlorfluazuron)
two years after cattle were fed cotton trash containing residues of the
pesticide. Government inspectors believed that the pesticide was passed
to calves through suckling. After finding high levels of Helix in the cattle,
several countries suspended beef imports from Australia. 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
- Source: Agrow: World Crop Protection
News, January 15, 1999 and
- August 28, 1998. PANUPS, May 20, 1996.
Consumer Food News,
- February 1999.
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