Editorial

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THE Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority says there are more than 9000 different pesticides and veterinary medicine products on the Australian market.

As a result, farmers need to know the products they use will not only work, but will not harm them, their family, crops, animals or the environment.

It is clear then that the authority knows the importance of its job.

The fact it has taken the statutory authority up to 15 years to review the acceptable exposure levels of certain, potentially toxic, chemicals and pesticides is a shabby effort, which works directly in contrast with its aim to protect farmers, their families and the environment. The authority has denied it is not acting fast enough.

It is a shame it cannot accept the delays have been too lengthy.

Interim findings or suspensions of use are helpful but farmers need to have the certainty and peace of mind to make long-term decisions.

As the members of an average household would know, scientific and technological innovations since the mid-1990s have been dramatic. It is understandable a review might be delayed for some time, perhaps even a number of years in some circumstances, to allow the latest research to be considered.

As Liz Hanna, a fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University says, a thorough review in two years seems like a good timeframe.

A review completed within this timeframe is able to guide decision making - so the public is not deprived of information - but also affords enough time for the review to be considered.

New federal legislation to put a five-year ceiling on the time it takes to do these reviews seems appropriate, although it would be concerning if a significant number of the reviews took this long.

As the authority states, Australia's primary production is worth an estimated $30 billion a year with an export value of more than $25 billion.

Many primary producers rely on pesticides and veterinary medicines to protect this trade.

Decisions about this sector need to be researched thoroughly but not crippled by inertia.